(1) WHOSE TABLE DO YOU WANT TO SIT AT? [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Writing for SYFY Wire, Brian Silliman runs down a dozen genre families (loosely defined) you might like to visit at Thanksgiving. The surviving members of LotR’s Fellowship (supplemented a bit) is included as is the Devil himself. What family not included in Silliman’s list would you pick? “The 12 genre families we’d most want to spend Thanksgiving with”.
… In the world of genre storytelling, there are countless examples of families, tribes, clans, and groups who only manage to keep hope alive because they have each other. Some of these families have seriously been through it, and many losses have happened. They get through it, and if you have nowhere else to turn this holiday season, you may be inspired by their example. You may be comforted by spending some imaginary time with them. In some instances, you may just want to have a little fun. Remember fun? It’s a thing. It’ll be back. Bet on it, bet on it, bet on it, bet on it.
The Fam (Doctor Who)
Any chance to go aboard the TARDIS is an instant yes, as is any chance to meet any Doctor that this show has featured. We’re currently skipping along with 13, Graham, Ryan, and Yaz, though… also known as “the fam.” They’re the ones with which our giving of thanks will be done with.
This foursome would give fun and kindhearted good cheer to anyone, and we know that the TARDIS can use its time circuits to cook a turkey. The issue here is that we’d turn into the holiday guests who never leave — once we’re in that box, we’re there for life. Deal with it, Timeless Child! You already have three companions, what’s one more? We may even fall in love, but let’s not label anything right now. Pass those carrots, Yaz!
Nine Pakistani artists and designers were commissioned to illustrate your collection. Tell us a little about why you wanted to have each story illustrated.
When I was a child, some of my favorite books were illustrated editions of Edgar Allan Poe and Arthur Conan Doyle. Sketch art and color plates by Arthur Rackham, Harry Clarke, Edward Gorey, and Gustave Doré would send my imagination soaring. This was much before I realized I was a colonial experiment—a middle-class mule with dreams and riches dangled before him as he trots along with a hundred million others. The mule’s been trained to dream a certain way, to crave the carrot and thrill at the whiplash until he thinks those are things he wants. Perhaps—or sometimes—we grow up and realize we want subversion but on our terms, not on the terms of masters past or present.
I wanted those stories illustrated my way. I wanted the Old and New Worlds to meet but at a crossroads of my choosing, at the terms of my people. That is also one reason I opted to bring out my debut collection in Pakistan rather than elsewhere.
(3) DUE DILIGENCE. Camestros Felapton is mulling over ways to decide what he should vote for in the Best Video Game Hugo category in 2021. Today he followed his opening salvo, “Video Game Hugo”, with more deep thoughts in “What is it like to be in a world”.
…Certainly a book or a film can have characters do the same but a video game is obliged to have a consistent behaviour for how this departure from reality works and also forces the player to get to grips with what it would be like to be in a world where such a thing was possible.
Given that, I should really consider the non-narrative SFF elements of a game. Doing so would mean that games without narrative elements should be considered potentially strong contenders….
(4) CHANGING GATE. Congratulations to Black Gate on a successful site migration – a lot of stuff they had to make work: “Black Gate is Moving!”
…This wasn’t exactly an easy process (not according to the exhausted late-night calls we got from Support at our new service provider, anyway). It involved moving over 211,000 files, uncounted gigs of images, sound files (who uploaded sound files?), and strange databases apparently created by DAW Books in the 1970s. Our offices look like a Marvel Studios sound stage after a wrap party.
(5) READ SCIENCE FICTION COMMENTARY. Bruce Gillespie has produced another issue of his epic sercon fanzine Science Fiction Commentary – download issue #104 here at eFanzines.
A wide variety of material includes personal stuff (including lockdown pleasures) by Bruce Gillespie; a tribute to Phil Ware by Lync; and Edwina Harvey and Robert Day’s reports on the 2019 and 2020 Worldcons. William Breiding wanders the high cold deserts of USA. Jennifer Bryce, Robert Lichtman, and Guy Salvidge tell of past incidents and accidents in their lives. Michael Bishop, Jenny Blackford, and Tim Train contribute poems. And the ‘Criticanto’ section includes review-articles by Paul Di Filippo, Cy Chauvin, Henry Gasko, Murray MacLachlan, Ian Mond, and Michelle Worthington.
(6) BLACK FRIDAY. Tomorrow Blows Against The Empire: 50th Anniversary will be a SpecialRelease at Record Store Day. John A Arkansawyer sent the link with a comment, “I want it pretty bad. I’ve got the original cover (which this is) and the redo (which moves the title to the top for ease in finding in the bin). I’m hoping for a nice reprint of the booklet to go along with it all.” The album was a Hugo nominee in 1971.
With most of the members of Jefferson Airplane missing in action, Paul Kantner and Grace Slick holed up in a San Francisco studio in 1970 alongside a cast of West Coast rock ‘n’ roll legends including Jerry Garcia, David Crosby and Mickey Hart to cut what would become Kantner’s finest solo work, his rock space-opera, Blows Against The Empire. This 180g 50th anniversary edition LP is pressed on green marble vinyl for RSD Black Friday.
Side A: “Mau Mau (Amerikon)”, “The Baby Tree”, “Let’s Go Together”, “A Child Is Coming” Side B: “Sunrise,” “Hijack”, “Home”, “Have You Seen The Stars Tonite”, “X-M”, “Starship”
(7) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.
November 26, 1986 — Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home premiered. It was directed by Leonard Nimoy who wrote it with Harve Bennett. It was produced by Steve Meerson, Peter Krikes, Nicholas Meyer and Harve Bennett. It starred the entire original original Trek cast. It would lose out to Aliens at Conspiracy ’87. The film’s less than serious attitude and rather unconventional story were well liked by critics and fans of the original series along with the general public. It was also a box office success. And it has an exemplary eighty-three percent rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. (CE)
(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]
Born November 26, 1909 – Berkeley Livingston. One novel, five dozen shorter stories for Amazing and Fantastic under his own name and others, called fast-paced, imaginative, tightly-plotted, or parody that unfairly gave him a reputation as an author of bad work – you pay your money and you take your choice. (Died 1975) [JH]
Born November 26, 1910 — Cyril Cusack. Fireman Captain Beatty on the classic version of Fahrenheit 451. He’s Mr. Charrington, the shopkeeper in Nineteen Eighty-four, and several roles on Tales of the Unexpected rounds out his genre acting. Well and what looks like an absolutely awful Tam-Lin… (Died 1993.) (CE)
Born November 26, 1919 — Frederik Pohl. Writer, editor, and fan who was active for more seventy five years from his first published work, the 1937 poem “Elegy to a Dead Satellite: Luna” to his final novel All the Lives He Led. That he was great and that he was honoured for being great is beyond doubt — If I’m counting correctly, He won four Hugo and three Nebula Awards, and his 1979 novel Jem, Pohl won a U.S. National Book Award in the one-off category Science Fiction. SWFA madr him its 12th recipient of the Damon Knight Memorial Grand Master Award in 1993 and he was inducted by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame in 1998. Ok, setting aside Awards which are fucking impressive, there’s the matter of him editing Galaxy Science Fiction and (and its UK sister edition), If, Star Science Fiction Magazine (which I’ve never heard of), Super Science Stories and well let’s just say the list goes on. I’m sure I’ve not listed something that y’all like here. As writer, he was amazing. My favorite was the Heechee series though I confess some novels were far better than others. Gateway won the Hugo Award for Best Novel, the 1978 Locus Award for Best Novel, the 1977 Nebula Award for Best Novel, and the 1978 John W. Campbell Memorial Award for Best Science Fiction Novel. Very impressive. Man Plus I think is phenomenal, the sequel less so. Your opinion of course will no doubt vary. The Space Merchants co-written with Cyril M. Kornbluth in 1952 is, I think, damn fun. He wrote a lot of short fiction, some I think brilliant and some not not but that was true of most SF writers of the time. (Died 2014.) (CE)
Born November 26, 1939 — Tina Turner, 81. She gets noted here if only for being the oh so over the top Aunty Entity in Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome but let’s not forget her as The Acid Queen in Tommy as well and for appearing as The Mayor in The Last Action Hero which is at least genre adjacent. (CE)
Born November 26, 1939 – Gaelyn Gordon. Eight novels, as many shorter stories. Quit teaching, went to writing, because “the people I teach … [I] often have a fairly good idea of what sort of adults they’ll be; I haven’t the faintest idea what the story I’m writing [will] turn out to be.” At her death the New Zealand Children’s Literature Foundation established an award in her name for children’s books unheralded at the time of publication which stayed in print and proved popular with children. In Several Things are Alive and Well and Living in Alfred Brown’s Head AB’s brain is taken over by aliens. (Died 1997) [JH]
Born November 26, 1945 — Daniel Davis, 75. I’m singling him out for Birthday Honors for having his two excellent appearances as Professor Moriarty on Next Gen. He has one-offs on MacGyver, Gotham and Elementary. He played The Judge in The Prestige film. He also voiced several characters on the animated Men in Black series. (CE)
Born November 26, 1949 – Victoria Poyser-Lisi, 71. Two Hugos as Best Fanartist; also pro work. Eighty covers, fifty interiors for us; more elsewhere (e.g. here is a plein air watercolor). Guest of Honor at Windycon X; Kubla Khan 14 with Frank R. Paul Award. Guest Artist at the 11th World Fantasy Con. Here is The Harper Hall of Pern. Here is Masters of Glass. Here is The Eyes of the Overworld. Here is the Sep 91 SF Chronicle. [JH]
Born November 26, 1951 — Van Ikin, 69. Australian editor and writer best known for his editorship of the long-running critical journal Science Fiction. He also edited Science Fiction: A Review of Speculative Literature, and has reviewed genre fiction for the The Sydney Morning Herald since 1984. It’s unfortunate that his twenty-year-old Strange Constellations: A History of Australian Science Fiction hasn’t been updated. He also edited a number of genre anthologies sometime back. (CE)
Born November 26, 1955 – Tracy Hickman, 65. Fifty novels with Margaret Weis, ten with T’s wife Laura Hickman, ten more. Role-playing games. Funded the Parsec Awards with Mur Lafferty and Michael Mennenga. Guest of Honor at MisCon I, StellarCon XI, LepreCon 22, CONduit 14. T & L Toastmasters at 46th World Fantasy Con. [JH]
Born November 26, 1973 – Peter Facinelli, 47. Actor, director, producer, including SF e.g. Supergirl, Supernova, Twilight & sequels. One novel (with Robert DeFranco & Barry Lyga). [JH]
Born November 26, 1986 – Sarah Doebereiner, 34. Five short stories for us, several others. “The work should speak for itself. The author is just a conduit.” [JH]
Born November 26, 1988 — Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson, 32. He played Gregor “The Mountain” Clegane on the Game of Thrones for five seasons. That’s it for his genre acting, but he co-founded Icelandic Mountain Vodka whose primary product is a seven-time distilled Icelandic vodka. Surely something Filers can appreciate! (CE)
(10) TWO WILD AND CRAZY GUYS. In the Washington Post, Donald Liebenson interviews Steve Martin, whose new book A Wealth Of Pigeons consists of over 130 cartoons by New Yorker cartoonist Harry Bliss with Steve Martin providing the captions. “’A Wealth of Pigeons,’ by Steve Martin and Harry Bliss Q&A”.
Q: Cartoonists don’t have the luxury stand-up comedians have of honing a bit in front of an audience. One of the cartoons in the book shows Steve trying out a cartoon on his wife, his young daughter and, finally, his cat. How do you two know a cartoon is ready to go out into the world?
Martin: This is a medium where there is barely feedback. For the first time in my life, I’m going with, “Well, I think it’s funny.” Because when I do stand-up and I think it’s funny and the audience doesn’t, it’s out the next day. In a strange way, this is more fun, because you just kind of believe in it. Some days I go back to cartoons we’ve written, and I go, “I don’t get it anymore,” and some of them grow in their humor.
Bliss: Every Sunday is my syndicate deadline, so I have to come up with six cartoons, which isn’t a big deal, because outside of raking the leaves and piling firewood, there’s not much else I do. I think it’s instinctual. If something makes me laugh and then I send it to Steve and we both think it’s funny, it’s a go.
(11) TRAILER TIME. The technology that makes it easy to do promotional trailers intrigues me. I should do a File 770 trailer. Meanwhile —
Titan Comics and Guerrilla Games are proud to announce an all-new graphic novel set after the events of the critically acclaimed, award-winning video game Horizon Zero Dawn.
(12) TWO CHAIRS. In Episode 41 of the Two Chairs Talking podcast, titled “A series of perfect murders”, Perry Middlemiss discusses The Good Turn by Dervla McTiernan, and David Grigg talks about The Survivors by Jane Harper, and he also raves about the work of Tana French plus several other books in the crime and mystery genres.
The four-legged robot ‘Spot’ is being pegged as a replacement for humans, who carry out routine, yet risky, measurements around the contaminated Chernobyl site. The long-term goal is to have the robots help take Chernobyl apart and have it safely decommissioned.
(14) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Stanley Kubrick: A Life in Pictures” on YouTube is a 2001 documentary, narrated by Tom Cruise and directed by Jan Harlan, that gives a comprehensive overview of Kubrick’s life and career, including extensive segments about Dr Strangelove, 2001, A Clockwork Orange, and The Shining. The film includes about five minutes of Arthur C. Clarke talking about 2001 and one brief interview of Brian W. Aldiss talking about A.I., which Steven Spielberg took over after Kubrick’s death.
[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, John King Tarpinian, Mike Kennedy, JJ, John Hertz, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Patrick Morris Miller.]
(1) FOR CONRUNNERS. On Sunday, November 15, Virtual Convention Convention will be held — an event devoted to (guess who) convention runners of virtual conventions. Register at the link.
Steve Davidson sent the link and says, “I’ll be presenting on how I put AmazingCon’s scheduling together in a very short time-frame.”
(2) HAYAO MIYAZAKI NEWS. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] This is from an interview with Studio Ghibli co-founder Toshio Suzuki by Leo Lewis in the November 9 Financial Times.
Two weeks before our meeting in June, the studio (Studio Ghibli) had announced that Miyazaki’s son Goro was working on a CH animated adaptation of Diana Wynne Jones’s novel Earwig And The Witch, which is scheduled to be broadcast in Japan next month. But even more fascinating for Ghibli’s global fan base is the progress of the elder Miyazaki on How Do You Live?–his first film in the director’s chair since The Wnd Rises in 2013 and the reason he decided to come out of retirement. It was a decision, says Suzuki, that did not arise from any formal meeting of the company (“We never have those!” but from another of the daily chinwags between the two old friends.
Miyazaki, says Suzuki, has come into the office every day of the Covid crisis, even as the rest of the operation has had to be pared back and dependent on teleworking. The good news is that production has continued to some extent; the bad news is that because the maestro works at his own perfectionist pace, the film is at least three years away.”
Lewis talks about a video Suzuki made about how to draw Totoro that went viral. This is on the web as “Learn How To Draw Totoro From Studio Ghibli’s Former President.” He says he wanted to do something to cheer kids up at the height of the pandemic.
(3) ON THE RACK. Scott Edelman got a kick out of deconstructing the comics rack in this scene from The Queen’s Gambit.
In The Evidence (Gollancz, £20), Christopher Priest makes a welcome return to the Dream Archipelago, a string of islands where nothing is as it first appears. Thriller writer Todd Fremde is invited to lecture at the university in Dearth, a subpolar island that undergoes destabilising changes in space and time known as “mutability”. While on the island he is approached by a semi-retired police commissioner; she recounts the details of a murder that occurred 15 years earlier. Fremde investigates the killing on his return home, only to discover that aspects of her story do not tally with the known facts. He soon finds himself drawn into a series of baffling events that threaten to bring the killer to his doorstep. With characteristic literary playfulness, Priest presents both a compelling mystery – Fremde’s attempts to work out the objective truth of the cold case – and a treatise on the unreliability of subjective narrative. The Evidence is an unsettling, Kafkaesque tour de force.
(5) WORLDCON BID VIDEO. The Chengdu in 2023 Worldcon bid has put out a promotional video. President Obama’s in there for a split second. (But not his successor – they’re trying to win, after all.)
(6) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.
November 13, 1987 — The Running Man premiered. Directed by Paul Michael Glaser and starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, María Conchita Alonso and Richard Dawson. It‘s very loosely based on the novel of the same title written by Stephen King and published under the Richard Bachman pseudonym. It was a moderate box office success and currently rates 60% at Rotten Tomatoes. (CE)
(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]
Born November 13, 1850 – Robert Louis Stevenson. Had he written only the novella “Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde”, it would have been enough for us. (Incidentally, the name is pronounced “Jee-kill”.) What he did in 25,000 words! The best discussion I know is Nabokov’s, see N’s Lectures on Literature (F. Bowers ed. 1980). The Master of Ballantrae is ours, and many shorter stories. I recommend “Markheim” for the characterization of its antagonist – but no spoilers. (Died 1894) [JH]
Born November 13, 1873 – Oliver Onions. You’ll expect me to recommend The Tower of Oblivion, and I do. Four more novels for us, three dozen others; three dozen shorter stories. He had been an amateur boxer and was a commercial artist; he sometimes did his own covers. (Died 1961) [JH]
Born November 13, 1888 — Philip Francis Nowlan. He’s best known as the creator of Buck Rogers. While working in Philadelphia, he created and wrote the Buck Rogers comic strip, illustrated by Dick Calkins. Philip Nowlan, working for the syndicate John F. Dille Company, later known as the National Newspaper Service syndicate, was contracted to adapt the story into a comic strip. The strip made its first newspaper appearance on January 7, 1929. (Died 1940.) (CE)
Born November 13, 1898 – Walter Karig. Navy captain, seven books of naval history; three Nancy Drew books, five others of that kind; detective fiction; four general-interest novels; for us, Zotz! Read it, and when you discover the tragedy, you’ll see why the movie was different. (Died 1956) [JH]
Born November 13, 1930 — Adrienne Corri. Mena in “The Leisure Hive”, a Fourth Doctor story. She was also in A Clockwork Orange as Mrs. Alexander, Devil Girl from Mars, Corridors of Blood, The Tell-Tale Heart, Lancelot and Guinevere, Revenge of the Pink Panther and Moon Zero Two which is not a complete listing by any means. (Died 2016.) (CE)
Born November 13, 1933 – Jasia Reichardt, 87. Survived the Holocaust. Art critic, curator, teacher, gallery director; assembled the Francziska & Stefan Themerson archive. Famous for curating Cybernetic Serendipity at the Institute of Contemporary Arts, London; three related books. Robots: Fact, Fiction, and Prediction. Lectures, Our Dreams Change, We Don’t (2019). Many other books and articles. [JH]
Born November 13, 1946 – Marty Massoglia, 74. Chaired Loscon 4. Fan Guest of Honor at Tuscon 10, Penulticon 3. Forty years a leading bookseller. Teaches Regency dancing. Now in Tucson, Arizona. He looked like this at LoneStarCon 3 the 71st Worldcon. [JH]
Born November 13, 1948 — John de Lancie, 72. Best known for his role as Q in the Trek multiverse though I was quite fond of him as Janos Barton inLegend (if you’ve not seen it, go now and watch it). He also was Jack O’Neill enemy Frank Simmons in Stargate SG-1. He has an impressive number of one-offs on genre shows including The Six Million Dollar Man, Battlestar Galactica(1978 version), The New Twilight Zone, MacGyver, Mission: Impossible (Australian edition), Get Smart, Again!, Batman: The Animated Series, and I’m going to stop there. (CE)
Born November 13, 1953 — Tracy Scoggins, 67. Capt. Elizabeth Lochley on Babylon 5 and its follow-up series, the short-lived Crusade. See Neil Gaiman’s most excellent Babylon 5 episode “ Day of the Dead” for all you need to know about her. She was also Cat Grant in the first season of Lois & Clark, and she played Gilora Rejal, a female Cardassian, in “Destiny” a DS9 episode. (CE)
Born November 13, 1955 — Whoopi Goldberg, 65. Best known as Guinan the Barkeep in Ten Forward on Enterprise in Next Gen which she reprised in Generations and Nemesis. Other genre appearances include It’s a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle to name but a few of her appearances as she’s very busy performer! And she has one interesting sounding genre novel, Alice, based off that novel to her credit. (CE)
Born November 13, 1957 — Stephen Baxter, 63. Ok I’m going to confess that the only thing I’ve read that he’s written is the Long Earth serieswith Terry Pratchett. I’ve only read the first three but they are quite great SF! Ok, I really, really need your help to figure out what else of his that I should consider reading. To say he’s been a prolific writer is somewhat of an understatement and he’s gotten a bonnie bunch of awards as well though no Hugos. It’s worth noting that Baxter’s story “Last Contact” was nominated for a. Hugo for best short story as were quite a number of his works. (CE)
Born November 13, 1977 – Leanne Hall, 43. Three novels. Text Prize for Children’s & Young Adult Writing. Wrightson Prize for Children’s Literature. Australian Writers Week in China, 2014. [JH]
Early Thursday morning, officers from the Scotts Valley Police Department in Santa Cruz County, California responded to a call about a “suspicious figure” by the side of the road. That’s a phrase that could imply all kinds of scary things, but when the officers got to the spot in question, they found something they perhaps didn’t expect: Bigfoot.
Yes, Bigfoot has been found in Scotts Valley, California! And by “Bigfoot,” we mean a beloved four-foot-tall redwood statue of Bigfoot reported stolen from a local museum earlier this week….
NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover has a new selfie. This latest is from a location named “Mary Anning,” after a 19th-century English paleontologist whose discovery of marine-reptile fossils were ignored for generations because of her gender and class. The rover has been at the site since this past July, taking and analyzing drill samples.
Made up of 59 pictures stitched together by imaging specialists, the selfie was taken on Oct. 25, 2020—the 2,922nd Martian day, or sol, of Curiosity’s mission.
Scientists on the Curiosity team thought it fitting to name the sampling site after Anning because of the area’s potential to reveal details about the ancient environment. Curiosity used the rock drill on the end of its robotic arm to take samples from three drill holes called “Mary Anning,” “Mary Anning 3,” and “Groken,” this last one named after cliffs in Scotland’s Shetland Islands. The robotic scientist has conducted a set of advanced experiments with those samples to extend the search for organic (or carbon-based) molecules in the ancient rocks.
A recent spate of bear attacks in Japan has prompted one city to invest in an unusual scare tactic: robotic wolves.
The city of Takikawa in northern Japan, population 41,000, purchased two of the animatronic wolves — called the “Monster Wolf” — in September after bears were found entering the city, Reuters reports.
The Monster Wolf is mounted on a stationary pole and comes equipped with motion sensors.
When those sensors are triggered it swivels its head, flashes lights in its eyes and on its tail, and emits a variety of sounds, including wolf-like howls and the clanking of machinery.
(12) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Chuck Jones’s MGM Cartoons–The Dot and The Line (1965)” is a 1965 cartoon, directed by Chuck Jones and with a script by Norton Juster, about a doomed romance between a dot and a line. Narrated by Robert Morley.
[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, John Hertz, JJ, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, Michael Toman, Contrarius, Steve Davidson, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Joe H.]
(1) FUR STUDIES. The Dogpatch Press published a 2-part interview with a professor at Boston College specializing in classical history who teaches a course called “Beast Literature” which covers talking animal stories and gets into animation and furry fandom.
I gather that classicism is about Greek/Roman tradition and how it carries on in modern culture. How does that merge with research about Disney and similar pop culture, and how did that develop as a focus for you?
That’s right — Classics is a complicated term, but it’s shorthand for the study of the ancient Mediterranean world and its continuing significance.
As for Classics, Disney, and pop culture, I can’t say exactly how it all began merging. I’ve loved animation for as long as I can remember. VHS tapes of Disney’s Robin Hood, Bluth’s American Tail, and Vitello’s Gallavants ran non-stop in my house when I was a kid, and that interest has gotten stronger as time goes by. And I’ve been studying Classics for more than 20 years now. If you spend that long learning and thinking intensively about one area, you just can’t shut off that part of your brain. You develop a sensitivity and notice wherever it pops up, whether that’s at work or vegging out in front of the TV.
The fact that Greece and Rome exert this pervasive presence means it happens all the time, and the more you notice, the more complex and interesting those patterns become, and the deeper you want to dive. So it’s an organic mixing of two things I love and have spent a ton of time trying to learn and understand better.
(Dogpatch Press:) It was interesting that you mentioned teaching a course in talking animals. Tell me all about it! Since when, and how unique is that, and how is it being received? What sort of students are in it and what are they studying in general?
(Christopher Polt:) I love that course — the material is so fun and weird and meaningful. The basic question we ask is, “What are we doing when we speak by using animal voices, and what does that say about our attitudes towards humans, animals, and the lines we draw between them?” It’s also my chance to teach some cool, off-the-wall art and literature. We read Apuleius’ Golden Ass, which is a novel about a guy who accidentally turns himself into a donkey and goes on a journey through the Roman provinces (think The Emperor’s New Groove, but much sexier and more violent), and Nivardus’ Ysengrimus, which is the earliest major collection of stories about Reynard the fox, an archetypal animal trickster.
Sometimes I also take students on field trips to tie historical material we’re learning to lived experience. One of my favorites has been to a local pet cemetery. We spend a few days talking about how Greeks and Romans use animals to think about divinity, mortality, and the afterlife, and we look at epitaphs and funeral poems for dead pets, which are often written from the animal’s point of view. There’s a great example in the British Museum, which commemorates the life of a dog named Margarita (“Pearl” in Latin), who died while giving birth to puppies:
Another professor at U of South Florida does an animals in antiquity course that has a section on furries.
Christopher Polt also discusses masks in ancient drama in an interesting thread that starts here.
The 71-year-old creator of Dragonstone, Winterfell and the Red Keep describes his proposed Gothic-style structure as a free-standing ‘seven-sided library’ in a planning application lodged with the City of Santa Fe.
But locals say the fortress-like building, featuring imposing stone walls, battlements and a 27ft tower, is akin to something from HBO’s hit show Game of Thrones and totally out of place in a suburban neighborhood where it will spoil their views.
Martin’s architects toned down the medieval aspects in revised drawings but still need special permission from the city’s Historic Design Review Board to start work on the ‘Water Garden Keep’ because the turret is several feet higher than zoning codes allow.
(3) SUSANNA CLARKE REVIVAL. The New Yorker visits “Susanna Clarke’s Fantasy World of Interiors”. Tagline: “Fifteen years after an illness rendered her largely housebound, the best-selling writer is releasing a novel that feels like a surreal meditation on life in quarantine.”
… Often while I spoke to Clarke I could hear Greenland in the background, clinking dishes in the kitchen sink. Later, he told me that Clarke gets up much earlier than he does, and tries to write for the few hours when her energy is at its peak. By the afternoon, she needs to rest, and even in the morning her ability to participate in, say, a demanding conversation is limited to about an hour. She is very private about whatever she’s working on; in fact, she can be a little cagey about whether she’s working on anything at all. “She’s on her sofa with her laptop,” Greenland said. “And I don’t know if she’s playing a game, if she’s watching TV, if she’s writing e-mails, or if she’s working. It’s not apparent to me. She’s in her bubble. But what I do know is that, for a long while, she was too ill to write. And then, after that, she was writing fragments.”
Many of these “bits,” as Clarke calls them, have been squirrelled away for possible inclusion in some future work. “Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell” is partly written in a style reminiscent of John Aubrey, the British scholar best known for his “Brief Lives” series of short biographies. In the novel, these passages come complete with footnoted anecdotes that document the history of English magic with a distinctive combination of whimsy and nineteenth-century punctiliousness. One such story mentions a chick, hatched from an enchanted egg, that “grew up and later started a fire that destroyed most of Grantham.” Clarke writes, “During the conflagration it was observed bathing itself in the flames. From this circumstance, it was presumed to be a phoenix.”
Although the origins of “Piranesi” predate Clarke’s illness, she did not commence intensive work on it until her symptoms abated, a few years ago….
How big is the House? It is limitless. Its towering rooms are the size of two soccer fields or more. Connected by passageways and staircases, the rooms extend in every direction as far as Piranesi can explore. He writes in his journals that he has traveled nearly a thousand rooms from what he believes to be the center of things and has never reached the end. Even the staircases are huge, their steps much taller than a man can comfortably climb, as if, Piranesi writes, “God had originally built the House intending to people it with Giants before inexplicably changing His Mind.”
(4) OLD PEOPLE READ OLD SFF. James Davis Nicoll reread “The Amazing Adventures of Space Cat!” for the first time since 1969. (James may not really be that old, but he is the curator of the Young People Read Old SFF series, so what else could I call it?)
…Convinced the cat is lucky (as opposed to, say, needing more supervision than it is getting), Fred insists that the cat accompany him on humanity’s very first trip to the Moon. Fred’s superiors acquiesce because they would not dream of taking away a man’s good-luck charm. When Fred leaves for the Moon on rocket ship ZQX-1, Flyball accompanies him.
“Science fiction is not about the future,” the sci-fi novelist Samuel R. Delany wrote in 1984. The future “is only a writerly convention,” he continued, one that “sets up a rich and complex dialogue with the reader’s here and now.” That is a useful way of understanding all the many pop nonfiction books that speculate about the technologies of the future, and attempt to divine their effects on human beings. Their predictions depend on how well they interpret the present.
One such interpreter is Debora L. Spar, the dean of Harvard Business School Online, who writes at the intersection of tech and gender. In her new book, “Work Mate Marry Love,” she considers an emerging wave of innovations that she believes could upend how we experience relationships, reproduction, gender expression and death. “We will fall in love with nonhuman beings,” Spar predicts in the book’s opening pages, “and find ways to extend our human lives into something that begins to approximate forever.” Spar argues that new technologies spark shifts in the most intimate of human affairs, often in unexpected ways. She casts this as a causal relationship, one imbued with a sense of inevitability. The book’s subtitle, “How Machines Shape Our Human Destiny,” gives the machines the agency.
…But what was probably most fascinating about Winchell was the fact that he was a very successful inventor. Over the course of his life, he held patents on over 30 devices, including a disposable razor, a flameless cigarette lighter, an illuminated ballpoint pen, a retractable fountain pen, an inverted novelty mask, battery-operated heated gloves, an indicator to show when frozen food had gone bad after a power outage, and the first artificial human heart. That’s right, the artificial heart.
This invention was developed through collaboration with Dr. Henry Heimlich, inventor of the Heimlich Maneuver, and held the first patent for such a device.
(7) FERRIS-YERXA OBIT. It has been leaned that author Frances Ferris-Yerxa died March 3, 2019 at the age of 101. The family notice said:
She married Le Roy Yerxa. When Le Roy passed away at an early age, she was left with four young children to raise and care for. She later married William Hamling and they had two more children. She was always oriented to the welfare of her family. She loved all her children, all her grandchildren, all her great grandchildren and great great grandchildren and nieces and nephews.
The Yerxa website notes that both Leroy (as his name was spelled on magazine covers) and Frances wrote stories for the “pulp” science fiction magazines Amazing Stories and Fantastic Adventures.
These magazines were published by Ziff-Davis out of Chicago, IL. By the early 1940s, Palmer, the managing editor of these publications, had developed a stable of local (Chicago-based) writers who could write to order, often producing stories around cover paintings by Harold McCauley, Robert Gibson Jones, or Malcolm Smith. The mainstays were Don Wilcox, Robert Moore Williams, David Wright O’Brien, William P. McGivern, Leroy Yerxa, and David Vern, plus (later in the decade) Chester S. Geier, Berkeley Livingston, and William L. Hamling.
Leroy Yerxa was among the most prolific contributors to the Ziff-Davis magazines. He was twenty-seven years old when his first story, “Death Rides at Night,” appeared under his own name in the August 1942Amazing. In the next four years, till his untimely death in 1946, he sold more than seventy stories to Palmer for Amazing Stories and Fantastic Adventures, with many of those published pseudonymously. He is rumored to have written an entire issue of Fantastic Adventures (possibly the one for December 1943). While other writers wrote more, their output was not concentrated in such a short, intense period. Possibly Yerxa’s only rival in this regard was David Wright O’Brien, who in the five years from 1940 through 1944 sold more than a hundred stories to Palmer, not counting his collaborations with McGivern.
Palmer’s core of writers were so prolific that they could fill every issue. To avoid the frequent recurrence of names, the authors used various personal pseudonyms, some of which were later adopted by other authors. For instance, “Lee Francis” began as a pen name of Leroy Yerxa’s (which he often used when his wife Frances published a piece under her own name in the same edition), but after his death in 1946 it was used by others, including Hamling. In addition, a practice began of creating a number of “house names.” The house names were used by several writers, so that we had the authors using several names and several authors using the same name.
Leroy Yerxa died and, after a reasonable length of time, William Hamling, who had been a good friend as well as colleague, proposed to Frances Yerxa. Frances, who had already made a name for herself as a writer with her material appearing all over the place, accepted Hamling’s proposal and Hamling assumed responsibility for Yerxa’s sons Edward and Richard, and began raising them as his own. Then, Bill and Frances had two children, a daughter Debbie and Billy Jr. They lived in Evanston, the north contiguous suburb of Chicago, on Fowler Avenue in a nice, comfortable house.
(8) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.
September 2010 — At Aussiecon 4 a decade ago this month, China Miéville‘s The City & The City would win the Best Novel Hugo in a tie with The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi. It would be his first, and to date only, Hugo Award. It would later win the BSFA Award for Best Novel, the Locus Award for Best Fantasy Novel, the World Fantasy Award for Best Novel and the Arthur C. Clarke Award. Impressive indeed. It was written as a gift for Miéville’s terminally ill mother, who was a fan of police procedurals. It would be made into an audiobook narrated by John Lee who also narrates Alastair Reynolds’ Prefect Tom Dreyfus novels. A four-part television adaptation by the BBC was broadcast in 2018.
(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]
Born September 11, 1862 – O. Henry. Master of the short story, often with a surprise ending. I’ve read the 1926 Complete Works with almost three hundred, poems too; perhaps half a dozen are ours. When in Wouk’s Youngblood Hawke Jeanne Green compares YH to O. Henry and YH recoils, Wouk who is no dope means us to see YH is wrong and JG is right; YH doesn’t know his own greatness in his fog of yearning for sophistication. Of course we’d never – (Died 1910) [JH]
Born September 11, 1889 – Ann Bridge. Alpinist, archaeologist, gardener. Novel And Then You Came, four shorter stories, for us; a score of other novels including detective fiction, also travel, memoirs. Praise: people, history, politics shown with truth and skill. Blame: snooty. Decide for yourself. (Died 1974) [JH]
Born September 11, 1940 — Brian De Palma, 80. Though not a lot of genre work, he has done some significant work including Carrie. Other films he’s done of interest to us are The Fury which most likely you’ve never heard of, and the first Mission: Impossible film along with Mission to Mars. Not genre, but I find it fascinating that he directed Bruce Springsteen’s Dancing in the Dark video which has a genre connection as actress Courtney Cox would be in the Misfits of Science series and the Scream horror franchise as well. (CE)
Born September 11, 1941 — Kirby McCauley. Literary agent and editor who as the former who represented authors such as Stephen King, George R.R. Martin and Roger Zelazny. And McCauley chaired the first World Fantasy Convention, an event he conceived with T. E. D. Klein and several others. As Editor, his works include Night Chills: Stories of Suspense,Frights, Frights 2, and Night Chills. (Died 2014.) (CE)
Born September 11, 1951 — Michael Goodwin, 69. Ahhh — Alan Dean Foster’s Commonwealth series. I know that I’ve read at least a half dozen of the novels there and really enjoyed them, so it doesn’t surprise that someone wrote a guide to it which is how we have Goodwin’s (with Robert Teague) A Guide to the Commonwealth: The Official Guide to Alan Dean Foster’s Humanx Commonwealth Universe. Unfortunately, like so many of these guides, it was done once and never updated. (CE)
Born September 11, 1952 — Sharon Lee, 68. She is the co-author with Steve Miller of the Liaden universe novels and stories which are quite excellent reading with the latest being Neogenesis. They have won Edward E. Smith Memorial Award for for lifetime contributions to science fiction, and they won The Golden Duck (the Hal Clement Young Adult Award) for their Balance of Trade novel. They are deeply stocked at the usual digital suspects. (CE)
Born September 11, 1956 – Jefferson Swycaffer, 64. Ten novels, thirty shorter stories; regular correspondent in Broken Toys; active in the N3F (Nat’l Fantasy Fan Federation), indeed winning both its Kaymar and Neffy Awards. [JH]
Born September 11, 1958 — Roxann Dawson, 62. Best remembered for being B’Elanna Torres on Voyager. She’s also a published genre author having written the Tenebrea trilogy with Daniel Graham. This space opera series is available from the usual digital suspects. She’s got two genre film creds, Angela Rooker in Darkman III: Die Darkman Die, and Elizabeth Summerlee in the 1998 version of The Lost World. She’s the voice of The Repair Station computer on the “Dead Stop” episode of Enterprise. (CE)
Born September 11, 1960 – William Tienken. This appreciation by Our Gracious Host beats anything I could do. (Died 2014) [JH]
Born September 11, 1961 – Sally Green, 59. Half Bad and Smoke Thieves trilogies, plus 3½ novella “Half Lies”. Meanwhile she still runs most days despite several attempts to give it up. [JH]
Born September 11, 1965 — Cat Sparks, 55. Winner of an astounding fourteen Ditmar Awards for writing, editing and artwork, her most recent was in 2019 when she garnered one for “The 21st Century Catastrophe: Hyper-capitalism and Severe Climate Change in Science Fiction“. She has just one published novel to date, Lotus Blue, though there’s an unpublished one, Effigy, listed at ISFDB. She has an amazing amount of short stories all of which are quite stellar. Lotus Blue and The Bride Price collection are both available at the usual digital suspects. (CE)
Born September 11, 1976 – Lizzy Stevens, 44. A novel and (with husband Steve Miller) five shorter stories; “A Lost Memory” an Amazon Best Seller. Some other fellow having written Dharma Bums, LS and SM wrote about karma bums. That Loki is always right in the way. [JH]
(11) WINGING IT. In the Washington Post, David Betancourt says that former Marvel Comics editor Christian Cooper, famed as the Black birder accosted by a white woman in Central Park, has come out with a comic called “It’s a Bird!” that is “The first issue of ‘Represent!’ a digital series from DC Comics that will showcase writers and artists from groups underrepresented in the industry.” “Christian Cooper has written a comic book partly inspired by his viral Central Park moment”.
… “It’s a Bird” features Jules, a teenager given a pair of binoculars by his father and told to explore his surroundings. Jules, who has an encyclopedic knowledge of birds, is quickly harassed by those threatened by his presence as an unannounced Black man in an open space.
That and other moments of hostility evoke racial profiling that Cooper and other Black birders have experienced, but the story turns slightly mystical when Jules begins using his binoculars and sees images of Black people who have fallen to police violence, including Amadou Diallo, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd.
Cooper works as a senior editorial director at Health Science Communications and didn’t think he would wind up back at one of the superhero publishers so quickly, but here he is.
“I really appreciated it when [DC Comics] came to me and said do you want to do this comic, because I did have something to say,” he said in an interview. “It’s interesting how it slips into maybe this space in the DC Universe that isn’t normally occupied. It is a very magical-realist tale. There is something fantastical that happens in the course of the story. But it’s not capes. It’s not superheroes.”
Lego is well aware that its product encourages mess. Not that it’s necessarily a bad thing, as any decent Lego session ends with bricks and figures all over the floor. To make it easier for parents to cope without stifling creativity, Lego looked to the giants of storage, Ikea. Together they created a simple solution, aptly named ’Bygglek.’
…Løgstrup recalls how, while struggling to make the right contact at Ikea, a chance encounter at a school board meeting kickstarted the soon-to-be long-term collaboration between the two beloved Scandinavian brands. “By some coincidence, the leader from our licensing department happened to sit next to someone at Ikea and they started discussing the potential project,“ he explains.
Spurred on by this coincidence, the early courtship saw the Lego team invite Ikea to ‘come play‘ by sending them a stop motion movie to spell out the challenge Lego faced. An attractive offer that few could refuse, Ikea designer Andreas Fredriksson notes. “Of course we wanted to play. It was a yes from the beginning. It‘s the perfect match because we work with small space living at home and Lego is all about play.“
(13) MULAN OPENS QUIETLY IN CHINA. Pei Li, in the Reuters story “Disney’s ‘Mulan’ battles mixed reviews and media muzzle at Chinese launch”, says that Mulan was launched in China with “no major media buildup and no star-studded premier or red-carpet launch” with the film getting mixed reviews in China due in part to its historical anachronisms (buildings exist in the film that were built several hundred years later).
…”Mulan” has provoked a backlash on overseas social media over its star’s support of Hong Kong police and for being partly filmed in the Xinjiang region, where China’s clamp-down on ethnic Uighurs and other Muslims has been criticised by some governments and rights groups.
Chinese authorities told major media outlets not to cover the film’s release in the wake of the uproar, four people familiar with matter told Reuters, further weighing on its chances of success.
(14) MISGUIDED MISSIVE. Early Bird Books, a division of Open Road Media, sends subscribers emails with a list of e-books which are on special for the moment. Yesterday, a now-former subscriber reports they sent her an email with the subject “Message From Our Partner: Relieve Dryness & Make Intimacy Comfortable” with extensive information and endorsements about a product marketed by FemmePharma. The recipient was outraged and copied it to me.
One almost wonders if it was an act of revenge by an employee on their way out the door.
(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. German Netflix series Dark ended this year; here’s a breakdown on its themes on nihilism and fate from the YouTube channel Wisecrack.
[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, N., Mike Kennedy, John Hertz, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, Michael Toman, Patch O’Furr, Frank Olynyk, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]
(1) COLUMBUS 2020 NASFIC. The latest North American Science Fiction Convention ended today. NASFiC Newsletter is a place where you’ll find preserved such vital information as —
NASFiC by the Numbers
As of 11:30 pm on Saturday there were 1092 people registered through the convention website and 716 people on Discord.
We all know no one reads the souvenir book until they’re home, long after the con has ended. But since you’re ALREADY home, you can read it now! Read about our awesome Guests of Honor! Check out the convenient lists of artists and dealers, in case you want to follow up on something you saw at the con. Click to download your copy!
Out of context quotes
“Our asses are full of miracles”
“The attendees… or my minions. Whichever is more convenient”
“I just want to give all of you a big hug with my sand snork”
I can also recommend the NASFiC History section because some of it is written by yours truly. It begins with the site selection vote held in 1973 for the original NASFiC of 1975:
…Each bid was led by a co-chair of L.A.Con I, the just-completed Worldcon, Charles Crayne or Bruce Pelz.
…Crayne and Pelz reacted to TorCon 2’s [decision] simply by running their own site selection process at the con. I got my first bidding experience while helping Bruce Pelz and Milt Stevens haul cases of beer from a package store to their bid party in Toronto’s Royal York Hotel. “Strong backs, weak minds,” I think Bruce said. When the ballots were counted, we (Bruce and Milt may be thinking, “What do you mean, we?”) lost to Chuck Crayne’s bid.
On whether the themes in the book were inspired by present-day corruption
I started writing this in 2009. … What we’re dealing with now in the United States, it’s not something that just happened. It’s been been going, and going, and going, and if we’re talking about Nigeria, Nigeria has been battling corruption for a very long time as well. … I couldn’t say that it was inspired by current events, but its connection to current events is certainly no accident.
On having a more global perspective
It was like I grew up hybrid — this hybrid culture where … I’m learning about two different histories and blending them together. And so when I sat down to write, that’s what naturally came forth. … When it comes to looking at things historically, I look at it in a very broad, global way. Everything that happens, you know, I’m making connections not just from one country, but from two countries.
(3) CLARION WEST. The Clarion West Write-a-Thon reached new heights:
…We set a new record as 542 individual writers participated, with nearly 250 active regulars bonding and sharing writing on our Slack channel. We are so proud and grateful!
In all, we raised over $26,000, surpassing our goal and ensuring we can continue to bring the Clarion West resources and experience to the world. Going online with so many classes, most of them free, was a huge investment. We can say without doubt that this investment has paid off!
(4) BUG NIGHT. Clarion West will be hosting a free online event with Seanan McGuire and an entomologist. Register at the link.
Join us for a conversation with award-winning author Seanan McGuire and entomologist Kristie Reddick to discuss how science fiction and fantasy use bugs as proxies for aliens, societies, fears, and hopes. From Alien to Ant Man, Starship Troopers to James and the Giant Peach, what do all these stories have to tell us about being human?
Register here. This event is free to view online. Purchase a ticket to join the live Q&A after the event. Limited higher-tier tickets also get you books and other goodies for supporting Clarion West!
(5) RECONVENE AFTER ACTION REPORT. Mlex tells what it was like to virtually attend “reCONvene 2020”, and has quotes from some of the panels.
…reCONvene has now assembled and accomplished a hybrid version of the other cons I attended. And they did it really well!
The format of reCONvene was to set up a series of simultaneous program items, so that you could only attend one out of several that were happening during any given hour. This is the typical parallel programming style of most cons, so it had a natural feel to it. Since the con was a one-day event, this meant that between the hours of 11am to 5pm, you could attend six full panels sessions, at most. Or, if you are the sort to go in and out of rooms during a con, you could pop around and get a flavor for the multiple things going on.
Vandhana Singh started off the session by noting that the looming threat of climate change is not being met with the serious measures it requires. On the contrary, the collective juggernaut of humankind is colliding with it head on.
Vandhana: It’s a so called ‘normal’ way of behavior that brought us here. People are so invested in what feels normal for them, their denial kicks in, and they want to do the same things they have always done in the same way. I really didn’t realize the depth to which the current paradigm has a hold on our imaginations. And you can also see the predicted rise of right-wing groups actually taking place before our very eyes.
Vince: In any complex system you not only get the linear effect, but you get all sorts of unexpected outcomes that radiate out in different directions. There’s an established body of climate fiction that deals with these actually. There were archetypes of them even before the 20th century. And each of these stories attempts to deal with the inexplicable change that suddenly occurs. These could be brought on by wars, pandemics, or even the use of agriculture. Historically all of these, and many other factors, have been proven to be causes of total systemic changes. So, what do you think you are going to change in your fiction writing due to this situation that we find ourselves in?
…I’m one of the judges for the 2020 World Fantasy award and over the last few months I’ve read literally hundreds of fantasy titles, some good, some bad, most mediocre. I might easily have groaned at yet another entry into this overcrowded mode. But Mordew is a darkly brilliant novel, extraordinary, absorbing and dream-haunting. That it succeeds as well as it does speaks to Pheby’s determination not to passively inhabit his Gormenghastly idiom but instead to lead it to its most extreme iteration, to force inventiveness and grotesqueness into every crevice of his work. It seems that one way to take an apparently exhausted idiom and make it new is just to push through, with enough imaginative energy to refresh the tired old tropes. Mordew is so crammed with grotesque inventiveness that it overwhelms the reader’s resistance.
(7) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.
August 23, 1965 — Dr. Who And The Daleks starring Peter Cushing premiered in the U.K. Note that it was not Who canon as, though it used The Daleks serial script by Terry Nation from the series as its basis, The Doctor here is not part of the regenerations accepted by the BBC. Roberta Tovey as Susan and Jennie Linden as Barbara are the other principal cast. It was directed by Gordon Flemyng, and produced by Milton Subotsky and Max J. Rosenberg from a screenplay by Subotsky. Neither Clute nor anyone else who’s reviewed cared for it or its sequel. A Guardian reviewer several years back said that, “people don’t talk about Dr Who and the Daleks any more.” Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently have the film at a 41% rating. (CE)
(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]
Born August 23, 1863 – Amélie Rives, Princess Troubetzkoy. A score of novels (we may claim The Ghost Garden), shorter stories, paintings, plays; three poems in Fantasy & Terror 13 (ed. J.A. Salmonson; published posthumously). Introduced to Prince Pierre Troubetzkoy (1864-1936) by Oscar Wilde. Matter by and about her and the Prince in U. Virginia Lib’y Special Collections. (Died 1945) [JH]
Born August 23, 1898 – George Papashvily. Author, sculptor, inventor. Fought in Georgian Menshevik Army against Soviet Russians, immigrated here. Memoir Anything Can Happen (with wife Helen) sold 1.5 million copies, made a motion picture (G. Seaton dir. 1952); five more books. We may claim “Davit” and “The Khevsouri and the Eshmakie”. (Died 1978) [JH]
Born August 23, 1924 – Lloyd Birmingham. A score of covers, thirty interiors. Here is the Nov 61 Fantastic. Here is the Feb 62 Analog. Here is the Apr 62 Amazing and here is the Oct 63. Here is Great SF 9. Also comics, freelance illustration. (Died 2010) [JH]
Born August 23, 1927 — Peter Wyngarde. Not one who was a lead actor in any genre series save Department S where he was Jason King but interesting none-the-less. For instance, he shows up in the two Sherlock Holmes series, one with Peter Cushing and one with Jeremy Brett. He’s in a series of Doctor Who with the Fifth Doctor and he faces off against the classic Avengers pairing of Steed and Peel. He shows up as Number Two in The Prisoner as well. (Died 2018.) (CE)
Born August 23, 1929 — Vera Miles, 90. Lila Crane in Psycho which she reprised in Psycho II. On a much more family friendly note, she’s Silly Hardy in Tarzan’s Hidden Jungle, the very last of the twelve Tarzan pictures released by RKO. She has done one-offs on Buck Rogers in Twentieth Century, Fantasy Island, The Twilight Zone, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, I Spy and The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (CE)
Born August 23, 1931 — Barbara Eden, 89. Jeannie on I Dream of Jeannie. Her first genre role however was on Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea as Lt. Cathy Connors, though she’d show up a few years later as Greta Heinrich on The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm. Some thirty-five years after I Dream of Jeannie went off the air, she had a recurring role as Aunt Irma on Sabrina, the Teenage Witch. (CE)
Born August 23, 1944 — Karl Alexander. Author of Time after Time which when filmed was directed and written by Nicholas Meyer. Cast includes Malcolm McDowell, Mary Steenburgen and David Warner. (A thirteen-episode series would happen in 2017.) His sequel of Jaclyn the Ripper is not as well known, nor is his Time-Crossed Lovers novel. (Died 2015.) (CE)
Born August 23, 1947 – Marva Dasef, 73. Technical writer who turned to fiction. Three novels, twenty shorter stories for us; various others. Ranked The Martian above Dhalgren. Website here. [JH]
Born August 23, 1961 — Alexandre Desplat, 59. French film composer who won an Academy Award for The Shape of Water. He also composed the music for genre films including The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, The Golden Compass, Fantastic Mr. Fox, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Rise of the Guardians, and Isle of Dogs. (CE)
Born August 23, 1969 – Benjamin Rosenbaum, 51. One novel, five dozen shorter stories, some with co-authors. Translated into Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Hindi, Italian, Korean, Japanese, Romanian, Russian, Spanish, Swahili, Urdu. Software developer for Nat’l Science Foundation, for Washington, D.C., city government; built on-line game Sanctum. Website here. [JH]
Born August 23, 1983 – Winston Blake Wheeler Ward, 37. Founded Infinite Worlds magazine with a Kickstarter raising $3,500 from a hundred people (target $1,500) in Apr 19; five issues so far. Founder & curator of on-line monthly flash-fiction challenge the Five Hundred. Loves woodworking and dogs. [JH]
Born August 23, 1990 — Jessica Lee Keller, 30. Lauren, Elise’s Best Friend, in The Adjustment Bureau from Philip K. Dick’s “Adjustment Team” story. She also shows up in Lucifer, Terror Birds and 12-24 where IMDB describes her as the One Tit Zombie. (CE)
(9) COMICS SECTION.
Prickly City returns home from space – but is it sweet home?
This year’s Fantasticon will not be “The Weird Fantasticon” at our usual venue, but will be a virtual convention, like most other conventions during the Covid-19 pandemic. The dates will be 5-6 September 2020.
The theme of Fantasticon will be disasters, but not a word about the covid-19 pandemic (we get plenty of info on that particular disaster from other sources). But as usual, not everthing will be about the theme.
Some of the program will be in English, some of it in Danish.
…Stephens is 87 now, under self-imposed lockdown in one of those amenity-rich mid-rise apartment complexes that have sprouted all over Houston, this one just north of Hermann Park, in the Binz area. Her one-bedroom unit is cluttered with papers and stacks of books on nearly every surface. There are many romance novels, yes, as well as more-cerebral tomes such as A Nervous Splendor, a history of Vienna in the late 1880s. Family photographs, some dating back almost to that time, populate a small table in a living room corner….
… It has long been an open secret—certainly among women of color—that romance publishing has a race problem. A 2014 survey of four thousand romance writers conducted by Larson revealed that authors of color earned about 60 percent less than white writers. In 2019, research conducted by the Ripped Bodice, in Los Angeles, one of the few bookstores in America to sell romance exclusively, revealed that only 8 percent of leading romance publishers had released novels by women of color. And, not incidentally or coincidentally, the membership of the RWA is 86 percent white, according to the latest data. No Black writer had won a RITA—formerly the RWA’s highest honor—until 2019, and not for want of trying….
Yep. The celestial object known as 2018VP1 is projected to come close to Earth on November 2, according to the Center for Near Earth Objects Studies at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. It was first identified at Palomar Observatory in California in 2018.
“Asteroid 2018VP1 is very small, approximately 6.5 feet, and poses no threat to Earth. If it were to enter our planet’s atmosphere, it would disintegrate due to its extremely small size,” NASA said in a statement. “NASA has been directed by Congress to discover 90% of the near-Earth asteroids larger than 140 meters (459 feet) in size and reports on asteroids of any size.”
…”I could not understand how these slow, tasty animals that are just sitting there waiting to be eaten by a jaguar could survive,” Egerstedt said. “So I started reading about sloths and I got really excited about embracing slowness in robotics. And when you’re measuring things that are evolving over weeks and months, you don’t have to be fast — it’s OK to be slow, as long as you’re out there and getting the job done.”
With this in mind, Egerstedt and several students in his lab came up with the idea to design a robot that could do just that — reach places that humans and most high-powered robots can’t, like a tree canopy, and stay there to monitor environmental changes over time.
To do this, the SlothBot needed to be extremely energy efficient — sloth-like, if you will — to conserve power and continue sampling the air, without having to be lowered down from the trees and recharged….
(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In 2016, the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum made it possible to “Explore the Museum in Klingon”. Here’s a video based on the outtakes.
The Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum is one of the galaxy’s most popular tourist destinations, and celebrates infinite diversity in infinite combinations among its visitors. Although we are fairly certain there are no longer undercover Klingon agents on staff, we welcome citizens of the planet Kronos to explore the history of flight on Earth alongside our terrestrial visitors.
To help increase Klingon visitorship, we turned to Earth’s premier extraterrestrial linguist and former Smithsonian post-doctoral fellow, Marc Okrand. Okrand developed the Klingon and Vulcan languages for the Star Trek franchise, and was kind enough to translate and record a highlights tour of the Museum, discussing your favorite artifacts in Klingon.
The tour, which can be enjoyed from anywhere on or off the planet, includes six of the Museum’s most iconic artifacts, some of which required creative interpretation for our interstellar audiences. The Spirit of St. Louis became St. Louis toDuj (Mettle of St. Louis), while John Glenn’s Mercury spacecraft Friendship 7 became “Mercury jup ghom Soch” (“Group of Friends 7”), because there is no Klingonese word for “friendship.”…
[Thanks to John Hertz, Cat Eldridge, JJ, Michael J. Walsh, John King Tarpinian, Mlex, Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, Michael Toman, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title cedit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kurt Busiek.]
Below, find the TOC you’ll want to tick… the Table of Contents of a book that might help…. but first… yes, there are countless times I’d prefer to be wrong! Especially when it comes to the predictions made in THE POSTMAN!
TIME Magazines called EARTH one of “8 best predictive novels,” and there have been many other hits. But I always figured that my portrayal of lying-betraying-prepper “Holnists” in THE POSTMANwould prove to be artistic exaggeration — not a how-to manual for evil and treason.
Just as Adolf Hitler described his approach in Mein Kampf — and no one took him at his word — Nathan Holn is recalled having laid it all in the open… but Americans didn’t believe anyone would so baldly offer such a despicable program. The warning went unheeded till it was too late.
Likewise, Donald Trump has said publicly that his attack on the U.S. Postal Service is intended directly to interfere in the election. Of course crashing USPS also undermines rural America, a major part of the GOP base. So how is this supposed to benefit Republicans? The answer is… it’s not. Chaos and dysfunction are the goal. To Trump’s puppeteers, it doesn’t matter if he loses, so long as America dissolves into bitterness and pain.
Already it’s clear we need to start a mass movement akin to BLM to support Postal Workers!
(2) NOT EVERYTHING NEEDS TO BE COMIC-CON. Robert J. Sawyer challenges some assumptions about Canadian sff award voters in a Facebook post.
Yesterday, I attended the annual general meeting of the Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy Association, which was held by Zoom, due to the COVID pandemic.
The first issue the chair raised was what he considered to be a precipitous drop in the number of voters over the years. Years ago, he said, the number was in the mid-two-hundreds and he cited year-by-year figures showing a steady decline down to the current tally of 140 or so. Much discussion ensued about how to beef up the number.
My feeling is two-fold. First, it’s NOT an Aurora-specific issue, and, second, it’s NOT even a problem….
When people talk about bringing in vast new swaths of fans to beef up Aurora voting numbers, they usually mean finding a way to get young fans involved. But young fans, by and large, AREN’T SF&F readers, and have their own fandom traditions — they expect, for instance, their events to be high-cost and run to professional standards (even if mostly staffed by volunteers).
These are the fine folk who enjoy the Calgary Comic and Entertainment Expo; Fan Expo in Toronto; Anime North, also in Toronto; OtakuThon in Montreal; and so-called “comic-cons” across the country. They want to see actors and comic-book artists. Politely, they don’t need us — AND WE DON’T NEED THEM.
If traditional fandom is shrinking — and it IS, mostly through attrition as people get old and finally go on to that great hucksters’ room in the sky — then so be it. But is that hurting the Aurora Awards?
I say no. I had no horse in the race this year — I was not even eligible in any category except for related work (for my bimonthly columns in GALAXY’S EDGE magazine) and wasn’t nominated. But I studied the ballot and, even more important for posterity, the actual winners this year, and my verdict is this: the Auroras are doing just fine.
… In the past, we’ve also seen ballots with conspicuous omissions and even more conspicuous inclusions. When a Canadian work is nominated for the Hugo, the Nebula, or the World Fantasy Award, it SHOULD raise eyebrows when it has been squeezed off the Aurora ballot by lesser creations.
This year, though, the best short-form Aurora went to the most-generally-lauded Canadian-authored (or, at least, co-authored) work on the ballot: THIS IS HOW YOU LOSE THE TIME WAR by Amal el-Mohtar and Max Gladstone, which had already won the Hugo AND the Nebula Awards.
In the past, we’ve seen huge numbers of votes of dubious pedigree: people who have no known connection to fandom but a personal connection to one of the nominees nominating and voting en masse, propelling dubious works onto the ballot and sometimes shamefully even winning the award.
Thankfully, those days of hustling seem to have fallen by the wayside….
(3) NASFIC 2020. The virtual Columbus 2020 NASFiC Opening Ceremonies start 3:00 p.m. on Friday, August 21. Here’s =“How To Attend”:
Attending the North American Science Fiction and Fantasy Convention will now be easy as everything will be online!
On the day the convention begins, the page you are viewing now will provide you with a virtual “log book”. When you have signed it, this website will provide you access to several more pages, with embedded chat channels and streaming video.
It will be free, but we will still accept donations.
(4) SFF AROUND THE GLOBE. FutureCon, a new virtual international sff convention, will launch September 17-20. Cheryl Morgan gives an overview in “Introducing FutureCon”. (See the schedule here.)
While we might all be stuck at home wishing that we could sit in a bar with our friends, one of the benefits of the new virtual world in which we find ourselves is that travel is instantaneous and free. This means that we can have conventions that are genuinely global, and very cheap or free to attend.
Into this space comes FutureCon. It is being organised primarily by folks in Brazil, but with a lot of help from Francesco Verso in Italy, and also a bunch more people around the world. It will take place from September 17th-20th, and will be free to all on YouTube. All of the programming will be in English. Confirmed guests include Ann Vandermeer, Aliette de Bodard, Chen Qiufan, Ian McDonald, Lavie Tidhar and Nisi Shawl. But more importantly there will be speakers from over 20 different countries including Argentina, Croatia, India, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Turkey & Uganda.
… Francesco can read in many different langauges, and he said something today in a launch meeting for the event that really struck a chord. I’m paraphrasing slightly, but the gist was, “the quality of science fiction is evenly distributed around the world, but it is unevenly visible.” I hope that FutureCon can be an important step along the road to changing that.
… After the 1960s SF panel, I had only ten minutes to get to my next panel “Translation: The Key to Open Doors to Cultural Diversity in SFF”. I was moderating again and the panelists were Libia Benda from Mexico, Luis F. Silva from Portugal, Wataru Ishigame, speaking from the POV of a publisher publishing translated SFF in Japan, and Neil Clarke of Clarkesworld Magazine as the token American. Though that would be mean, because Neil Clarke has done more than pretty much any other magazine editor to bring translated SFF to English speaking readers.
Again, we had a lively e-mail debate before the panel and just as lively a debate during the panel, complete with an audio zoombombing by a Mexican street vendor. I had also asked all panelists to recommend some SFF books or stories from their country that had been translated into English (and Neil Clarke generally recommended SFF in translation), so there were book recommendations as well.
The translation panel also overran by almost half an hour, because once the Zoom recording was stopped, the Zoom meeting just remained open. After ascertaining that the audience could still hear us, we just continued talking about SFF in translation for another twenty five minutes or so, until the Zoom host shut down the room. Now that’s something that could never have happened at a physical con, unless you were the last panel of the day and the room wasn’t needed again….
I called my post from last week “Results and Final Thoughts“… but after it went up, I had another thought. So that title was a lie! Many people out there analyze various aspects of the results, but I want to look at two things: how many people vote in each category, and how many people vote No Award.
… Voting No Award in first place usually means one of two things, I would claim. First, it could mean that you find the concept of the category invalid. Every year, I vote No Award for Best Series, Best Editor, and a couple other categories, for example, and leave the rest of my ballot blank. I have some fundamental disagreements with the premises of those categories, and do not think they should be awarded. (Very few Hugo voters agree with me, though, clearly.) It could also mean that you just found everything in that category subpar: this year I voted No Award for Best Short Story, but still ranked finalists below it.
How well does Mollman’s interpretation hold up? And what is there to learn in the voting pattern from Jeannette Ng’s acceptance speech for the 2019 Campbell Award?
Here is a list of things that the HBO series Lovecraft Country, premiering Sunday, August 16th, has in common with the 2018 film Green Book:
1. Setting: Jim Crow-era America
2. Acting: Subtle, nuanced performances (Viggo Mortenen’s dese-and-dose Green Book gangster notwithstanding).
3. Subject: Story features a road trip involving a travel guidebook written to inform Black people where they can safely eat and stay. (Green Book: Entire film; Lovecraft Country: Opening episodes only.)
And here is a brief, incomplete list of the things that Lovecraft Country prominently features that Green Book emphatically does not:
1. A story centered on the lives of Black characters.
2. Black characters with agency, absent any White Savior narrative
Shoggoths, of course, are creatures imagined by writer H.P. Lovecraft — blobs covered with eyes that continuously arise and dissolve back into their putrid, pulsating flesh. (The Shoggoths of Lovecraft Country are shaped more like Pit-bulls than protoplasm, though they’ve got that whole creepy-eyes thing covered.)
Lovecraft Country is only the latest in a series of movies, television series and novels to engage with America’s greatest moral, economic, social and psychological wound — the legacy of slavery — by way of the fantastic. Creators like Jordan Peele, Damon Lindelof, Toni Morrison and Colson Whitehead didn’t avail themselves of, respectively, body-swapping, superheroes, an angry ghost and an entirely literal subterranean mass-transit system as a means to distract from, or to trivialize, racial injustice. No: They knew that when grappling with a foundational truth so huge and ugly and painful, utilizing the metaphorical imagery of science-fiction and horror offered them a fresh way in — an opportunity to get their audiences to re-examine, to re-feel, the enduring impact of that evil.
…Though it’s sure to be compared to Watchmen, given both its prominent HBO Sunday night berth and its determination to view race in America through the prism of science fiction, Lovecraft Country is lighter in tone, and far pulpier in sensibility, than Lindelof’s comparatively grand, sweeping epic. It’s much more apt to go looser and loopier, sprinkling magic spells, sacred codexes, secret passages and the occasional light tomb-raiding into the mix. It’s also far more eager to serve up the satisfyingly grisly thrills of pulp horror — bad guys getting their bloody, cosmic comeuppance, for example.
But for every fun, if wildly anachronistic, element — needle-drops like Rihanna’s “Bitch Better Have My Money,” say, or abdominal muscles like Majors’ — Lovecraft Country is always careful to re-center itself on its characters, and their hemmed-in status as Black women and men in 1950s America. Between every narrow escape and exposition dump about “finding the missing pages from the forbidden tome” or whatever, it gives its characters and their relationships breathing room. Case in point: Letitia’s contentious bond with her sardonic, disapproving sister Ruby (the quietly astonishing Wunmi Mosaku, in a warm, deeply compelling performance) gets a chance to grow and complicate. And in a later episodes (only the first five were screened for press), Ruby happily manages to step off the sidelines and mix it up with the series’ deep, abiding weirdness.
Though M. T. Anderson couldn’t possibly have planned it, his new book The Daughters of Ys feels like it was created for just this moment. The story’s driving force and key image — a torrential flood of natural and unnatural origin that sweeps away a city — is the perfect symbol for our era. If you’ve felt your brimming anxiety about the coronavirus overflow as you’ve tried to keep up with the never-ending tide of news about it, you’ll sympathize with Anderson’s characters.
This book is an excellent read right now for other reasons, too. Trying to keep abreast of your daily news feed may have made you impatient of any pleasure reading that isn’t perfectly absorbing (OK, that’s the last flood pun, I swear). A graphic novel, The Daughters of Ys is fun and easy to read. Anderson’s story, a reinterpretation of a Breton folktale, is effortlessly page-turning and actually feels a bit like a young adult title — not surprisingly, considering YA is Anderson’s preferred genre. But like Anderson’s National Book Award-winning The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, this book is both accessible to a wide age range and rich with ideas that will intrigue adults. (Note, however, that due to dark themes, some gore and the fact that the characters have sex, it may be best kept away from immature readers.)
Best of all, Daughters of Ys is a terrific respite for eyes weary of scanning headlines. Artist Jo Rioux isn’t as well-known as her coauthor — as is often the fate of illustrators who focus on children’s books — but she should be. Her drawings here aren’t just beautiful, with their deep, layered colors and elegant compositions; they’re also smart. Nodding to the original tale’s 5th-century setting, Rioux uses the style and motifs of Anglo-Saxon art (think of the Bayeux Tapestry and the metalwork of Sutton Hoo). But she doesn’t just replicate the style, she uses it to explore the evocative possibilities of minimalist cartooning. The characters’ faces have flat-looking eyes and minimal features, but they express intense, ambiguous emotions. Rioux also borrows the glowing lights and velvety shadows of Maxfield Parrish’s work for certain scenes, including a wonderful interlude set inside a circle of standing stones. The reader is encouraged to recall Parrish’s turn-of-the-20th-century America, when astonishing and alarming technological advances triggered a yearning for the romantic past, and to compare it with our own time.
(9) CHECK OUT COUNTER. WorldCat’s Library100 – I’ve read 41 of these.
What makes a novel “great”? At OCLC, we believe literary greatness can be measured by how many libraries have a copy on their shelves.
Yes, libraries offer access to trendy and popular books. But, they don’t keep them on the shelf if they’re not repeatedly requested by their communities over the years. We’ve identified 100 timeless, top novels—those found in thousands of libraries around the world—using WorldCat, the world’s largest database of library materials.
So, check out The Library 100, head to your nearest library, and enjoy the read!
(10) GOLDENBERG OBIT. American music composer, conductor and arranger Billy Goldenberg (William Leon Goldenberg) died on August 3, aged 84 reports Stephen Jones.
His many credits include Fear No Evil, Silent Night Lonely Night, Ritual Of Evil, Steven Spielberg’s Duel, Don’t Be Afraid Of The Dark (1973), The Legend Of Lizzie Borden, The Ufo Incident, Metamorphoses, This House Possessed, Massarati And The Brain, Prototype, Frankenstein (1986), 18 Again! and Sherlock Holmes And The Leading Lady. On TV Goldenberg composed music for the pilots of Night Gallery (again for Spielberg), Future Cop and Gemini Man, plus episodes of The Name Of The Game (Spielberg’s ‘LA 2017’), The Sixth Sense and Circle Of Fear (along with the theme music for both shows), Amazing Stories and the 1989 mini-series Around The World In 80 Days. He also composed one of the themes to the Universal logo.
(11) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.
August 16, 1951 — Dimension X’s “The Vital Factor” was first broadcast. The story is that a ruthless millionaire is determined to be the first man to conquer space…no matter what the cost. The script was used later on X Minus One. It was written by Nelson Bond who is the holder of a Nebula Author Emeritus award for lifetime achievement. He’s also the recipient of First Fandom Hall of Fame Award. His Meg the Priestess stories gave us one of the first powerful female characters in the genre. Daniel Ocko and Guy Repp are the actors here. You can listen to it here.
(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]
Born August 16, 1884 — Hugo Gernsback. Publisher of the first SF magazines, Amazing Stories in 1926, and Wonder Stories in 1929. He also played a key role in creating fandom through the Science Fiction League. Writer of the Ralph 124C 41+ novel which most critics think is utterly dreadful but Westfahl considers “essential text for all studies of science fiction.” And of course he’s who the Hugos were named after back in 1953. (Died 1967.) (CE)
Born August 16, 1913 – Will Sykora. Active at least as early as Jan 30 letter in Science Wonder Stories. With Sam Moskowitz, thought the true fannish spirit meant promotion of science. President of ISA (Int’l Scientific Ass’n) which sought to include amateur scientists, maybe the first fan club, unless disqualified in retrospect for insufficient frivolity – or insufficient leftism, which the Futurians were charged with excess of. Charter member of FAPA (Fantasy Amateur Press Ass’n). (Died 1994) [JH]
Born August 16, 1930 – Paul Lehr. Three hundred covers, fifty interiors. Here is his beginning, Satellite E One. Here is his famous Nineteen Eighty-four (no mustache on Big Brother!). Here is Spectrum 4. Here is The Ringworld Engineers. Here is the Mar 81 Analog. Here is the Aug 96 Tomorrow. What a giant. (Died 1998) [JH]
Born August 16, 1930 — Robert Culp. He’d make the Birthday Honors solely for being the lead in the Outer Limits episode “Demon with a Glass Hand” which Ellison wrote specifically with him in mind. He would do two more appearances on the show, “Corpus Earthling” and “The Architects of Fear”. Around this time, he makes one-offs on Get Smart! and The Man from U.N.C.L.E. before being Special FBI Agent Bill Maxwell in The Greatest American Hero. Did you know there was a Conan the Adventurer series in the Nineties in which he was King Vog in one episode? (Died 2010.) (CE)
Born August 16, 1931 – Walt Lee. Monumental if only for his 20,000-entry Reference Guide to Fantastic Films (with Bill Warren) – which, allowing for differences in scale, is like saying Cheops (or Khnum Khufu if you prefer) is monumental if only for the Great Pyramid of Giza. OGH’s appreciation here. (Died 2014) [JH]
Born August 16, 1933 — Julie Newmar, 87. Catwoman in Batman. Her recent voice work includes the animated Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders and Batman vs. Two-Face, both done in the style of the Sixties show. They feature the last voice work by Adam West. Shatner btw plays Harvey Dent aka Two Face. She was on the original Trek in the “Friday’s Child” episode as Eileen. She also has one-offs on Get Smart!, Twilight Zone, Fantasy Island, Bionic Woman, Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, Bewitched and Monster Squad. (CE)
Born August 16, 1934 — Andrew J. Offutt. I know him through his work in the Thieves’ World anthologies though I also enjoyed the Swords Against Darkness anthologies that he edited. I don’t think I’ve read any of his novels. And I’m not Robert E. Howard fan so I’ve not read any of his Cormac mac Art or Conan novels but his short fiction is superb. (Died 2013.) (CE)
Born August 16, 1934 — Diana Wynne Jones. If there’s essential reading for her, it’d be The Tough Guide to Fantasyland with a playful look at the genre. Then I’d toss in Deep Secret for its setting, and Fire and Hemlock for her artful merging of the Scottish ballads Tam Lin and Thomas the Rhymer. Now what’s the name of the exemplary short story collection she did late in life? Ahhh it was Unexpected Magic: Collected Stories with the great cover by artist Dan Craig. (Died 2011.) (CE)
Born August 16, 1952 – Edie Stern, F.N., 68. “Andre Norton’s Diamond Celebration” (with husband Joe Siclari) in Fantasy Review. “Fancy Jack” (Jack Speer; with Siclari) in Noreascon 4 Souvenir Book, hello Guy Lillian III (62nd Worldcon). Fellow of NESFA (New England SF Ass’n; service award). Introduction (with Siclari) to Virgil Finlay Centennial book for 2014 World Fantasy Convention. “LeeH” (Lee Hoffman, or for some of us, Hoffwoman), Journey Planet 27. “Wheels of IF” (Irish fandom; with Siclari) for 77th Worldcon Souvenir Book. Noted SF art collector (with Siclari), very helpful with SF con Art Shows. Fan Guest of Honor, Loscon 46. Big Heart (our highest service award; with Siclari). Since 2016, Webmaster of the FANAC Fanhistory Project (fanac = fan activity; Florida Ass’n for Nucleation And Conventions was originally formed for MagiCon the 50th Worldcon, Orlando). [JH]
Born August 16, 1958 — Rachael Talalay, 62. She made her directorial debut with Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare, and she also worked on the first four of the Nightmare on Elm Street films. Moving from horror to SF, she directed Tank Girl next. A long time Who fan, she directed all three of Twelfth Doctor’s series finales: series 8’s “Dark Water” and “Death in Heaven”, along with series 9’s “Heaven Sent” and “Hell Bent” before directing series 10’s “World Enough and Time” and “The Doctor Falls”. She capped who Who work with “Twice Upon a Time”, the last Twelfth Doctor story. (CE)
Born August 16, 1967 – Betsy Dornbusch, 53. Five novels, fifteen shorter stories. Co-editor Electric Spec 2006-2015. Essays & interviews there. Likes writing, reading, snowboarding, punk rock, the Denver Broncos, and how are you, Mr. Wilson? [JH]
Born August 16, 1969 – Michael Buckley, 51. A score of novels, some about the Nat’l Espionage, Rescue, & Defense Society (which spells – ), NY Times Best Sellers; some about the Sisters Grimm (yes). Robotomy for the Cartoon Network. Finn and the Intergalactic Lunchbox just released (April). Used to be in a punk rock band called Danger, Will Robinson. [JH]
Beck in the interview discusses many aspects of his career, including his providing the commentary for DVDs of Fritz Freleng cartoons to running a popular panel at Comic-Con called “Worst Cartoons Ever” so that fans can howl at a smorgasbord of stinkers. Beck also has written several histories of animation. But he was also one of the first Americans to understand the importance of anime. He recalled that when Hayao Miyazaki’s Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind was released in the mid-1980s, Roger Corman controlled the rights and released it in a heavily-cut, badly dubbed version. Beck realized Miyazaki’s importance and was the first to distribute Miyazaki’s films uncut to theaters.
As part of his anime distribution, Beck talked to the producers of Akira, who explained that they were shutting down their studio and offered Beck the contents. Eight months later, Beck got a call from the Port of Los Angeles (“and I’ve never gotten a call from a port before”) with eight giant containers of cels and other stuff, which Beck sold to the delight of serious collectors.
Also in the podcast, Maltin revealed that he learned Roman numerals from Popeye cartoons, which taught him that MCMXXXVI meant “1936”.
(14) BRING ME THE HEAD OF ADMIRAL ACKBAR. Coming right up! The Nerdist says it will be one of the lots available for bid in a Star Wars prop auction happening August 26-27.
For sci-fi movie prop collectors, items from the Star Wars saga are the Holy Grail. Now, fans who have wanted to get their hands on authentic items from a galaxy far, far away are in for a treat. Several props and costumes from the saga are going up for auction by The Prop Store of Los Angeles and London. Some very coveted pieces are among the items, including a full Darth Vader costume from 1977.
Brian Blessed has claimed that the Queen revealed to him that her favourite film is Flash Gordon, the 1980 sci-fi in which he stars as Prince Vultan.
Speaking about the film’s 40th anniversary to Edith Bowman on Yahoo Movies, the actor said that whenever he goes, people demand he recite his character’s catchphrase.
“Everywhere I go, they all want me to say ‘Gordon’s alive!’,” said Blessed. “The butcher, the baker, the candlestick maker, horses and queens, and prime ministers, they all want me to say ‘Gordon’s alive!’, it’s their favourite film.”
He continued: “The Queen, it’s her favourite film, she watches it with her grandchildren every Christmas.”
The actor then assumed the Queen’s accent, quoting her as saying: “You know, we watch Flash Gordon all the time, me and the grandchildren. And if you don’t mind, I’ve got the grandchildren here, would you mind saying ‘Gordon’s alive’?”
From this fourth season episode of The Next Generation comes one of Worf’s most famous quotes. Transported to Sherwood Forest by Q and adorned in the costume of Will Scarlett, one of Robin Hood’s Merry Men, Worf exclaims, “I am not a merry man.”
“Qpid” has one of the series lightest touches, to the point it feels like an old Errol Flynn film. While Picard plays Robin Hood, the rest of his Merry Men try to get used to their temporary roles. One of the funniest parts is during the fight between Robin’s friends and Nottingham’s guards. Both Doctor Crusher and Counselor Troi knock two of the bad guys out by bashing large vases over their heads.
When screenwriter Mattson Tomlin sat down to write Project Power in 2016, he knew that he wanted to create a superhero universe that put Black heroes front and center. The film that arrives on Netflix on Aug. 14 stays true to that vision, with Jamie Foxx and Dominique Fishback portraying the dynamic duo of Art and Robin, who take on a top-secret government agency that’s dispensing ability-enhancing pills on the streets of New Orleans. But there’s also a third superhero in the mix: a white police officer named Frank (played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt), who is the kind of “plays by his own rules” cop that’s been a popular Hollywood protagonist for decades.
As the film begins, Frank’s personal rules include popping those contraband pills to get a super-powered boost for daring busts. But after Art and Robin awaken him to the sordid story behind those drugs — a story that includes the exploitation of Black research subjects — he opts to join their cause. “Ultimately, the character goes through the movie trying to do the right thing,” Tomlin says. “Sometimes he goes about it in a messy way, but that’s where his heart is.”
A UK boat has just provided an impressive demonstration of the future of robotic maritime operations.
The 12m Uncrewed Surface Vessel (USV) Maxlimer has completed a 22-day-long mission to map an area of seafloor in the Atlantic.
SEA-KIT International, which developed the craft, “skippered” the entire outing via satellite from its base in Tollesbury in eastern England.
The mission was part-funded by the European Space Agency.
Robot boats promise a dramatic change in the way we work at sea.
Already, many of the big survey companies that run traditional crewed vessels have started to invest heavily in the new, remotely operated technologies. Freight companies are also acknowledging the cost advantages that will come from running robot ships.
But “over-the-horizon” control has to show it’s practical and safe if it’s to gain wide acceptance. Hence, the demonstration from Maxlimer.
…One obvious culprit is lunar dust that has built up on the retroreflectors. Dust can be kicked up by meteorites striking the moon’s surface. It coated the astronauts’ moon suits during their visits, and it is expected to be a significant problem if humans ever colonize the moon.
The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter “provides a pristine target,” said Erwan Mazarico, a planetary scientist at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center who, along with his colleagues, tested the hypothesis that lunar dust might be affecting the moon’s retroreflectors.
On Wednesday, senior Trump adviser Jenna Ellis compared Democratic vice presidential contender Kamala Harris to Marge Simpson, who’s voiced by actress Julie Kavner.
“Kamala sounds like Marge Simpson,” [Ellis] tweeted.
Marge responded on “The Simpsons” Twitter account with a 27-second clip in which she says the matter makes her uncomfortable.
“I usually don’t get into politics,” Marge said Friday, adding that her show-daughter Lisa informed her the comparison wasn’t meant as a compliment to either woman.
“As an ordinary suburban housewife I’m starting to feel a little disrespected,” the cartoon mom said. “I teach my children not to name-call, Jenna.”
? [Thanks to Cat Eldridge, Andrew Porter, JJ, Cora Buhlert, Cheryl Morgan, John King Tarpinian, John Hertz, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, Nicholas Whyte, Michael Toman, Daniel Dern, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jake.]
(1) RETRO ROCKET. [Item by Jeffrey Smith] A documentary crew’s attempt to find a 100-year-old rocket: “Space Oddity” in The Washington Post Magazine. This one has special interest for me because this is where I live — not Venus, but Hampden. In fact, I was on Morling Avenue today when I went out to pick up our dinner. I’ve eaten at Holy Frijoles, but not at Rocket to Venus, though it’s been here long enough and we’ve eaten everywhere else, so I don’t know why not.
… Now, three longtime friends living in Baltimore — John Benam, Brian Carey and Geoff Danek — along with a film crew, are trying to fill out the story of Robert Condit and his rocket for a documentary titled “Rocket to Venus.” In January, they retraced Condit’s movements to Miami Beach, where they learned he had taken the rocket after leaving Baltimore. Condit had made international news when he announced that he would launch himself into space from the Florida beach, including a December 1927 mention in The Washington Post under the headline “A Jaunt to Venus.”
“Time and again some hardy soul hoped to reach the stars,” the article read. “Never, so far as is known, has the feat been attempted: but no one had possessed a machine such as Mr. Condit has developed.”
…“It will not be very long until we know just what we have for neighbors,” Condit wrote about space travel in a 1928 lecture discovered by the filmmakers, “and in the course of the next few years, we will probably be doing business with Venus as casually as we now transact our affairs across the ocean or go for an aeroplane ride of a few thousand miles before breakfast.”
Scientists have identified 37 volcanic structures on Venus that appear to have been recently active – and probably still are today – painting the picture of a geologically dynamic planet and not a dormant world as long thought.
The research focused on ring-like structures called coronae, caused by an upwelling of hot rock from deep within the planet’s interior, and provided compelling evidence of widespread recent tectonic and magma activity on Venus’s surface, researchers have said.
Many scientists had long thought that Venus, lacking the plate tectonics that gradually reshape Earth’s surface, was essentially dormant geologically, having been so for the past half billion years.
…The researchers determined the type of geological features that could exist only in a recently active corona – a telltale trench surrounding the structure. Then they scoured radar images of Venus taken by Nasa’s Magellan spacecraft in the 1990s to find coronae that fit the bill. Of 133 coronae examined, 37 appear to have been active in the past 2m to 3m years, a blink of the eye in geological time.
After Anton Chekhov and Arthur Conan Doyle, Tade Thompson is the latest in a long line of medical doctors who have become writers.
Thompson is a full-time hospital psychiatrist, who writes science fiction, fantasy and crime thrillers that have received rave reviews and prizes, but he has no intention of giving up the day job, somehow fitting in everything by writing in the early hours.
A fierce bidding war has finally concluded over the film rights to his Molly Southbourne novellas, a nightmarish psychological story about a girl who, when she bleeds, creates duplicates of herself who want to kill her.
The rights have gone to Complete Fiction, the film company the director Edgar Wright and the producer Nira Park set up with their long-time collaborators the writer-director Joe Cornish and the producer Rachael Prior. They will transform the stories into a multi-season television series in collaboration with Netflix. Thompson is executive producing it and may write an episode or two…
In April last year, at the age of 87, the writer Gene Wolfe died of heart disease in Illinois. For science fiction fans, Wolfe was a cult figure, a modern day savant whose writing only a few could understand, and yet unanimously admired. His books never sold much, and yet he is widely regarded as the greatest American science fiction writer of all time. All his obituaries, while admiring and respectful, had an underlying theme, a question that invariably also followed a huge amount of his literary work. His writing, and its implications, were so challenging and polarising that everyone seemed to question what kind of greatness it was.
The reason to bring up Wolfe is because Marcelo Bielsa is back in business. Talking about Bielsa even more so. The mad stories, legends and myths about this football obsessed, workaholic, crazy, maniacal Argentinian cult figure, spoken about in hushed tones (and loud yells) in football circles across the world, have become mainstream over the past few years….
… Attempting to rework the past, at least on paper, has been the outlet of artists and authors for as long as people have been wishing for different endings. “As If: Alternative Histories From Then to Now,” an exhibition at the Drawing Center, presents eighty-four works from 1888 to the present that “offer examples of how we might reimagine historical narratives in order to contend with the traumas of contemporary life.”
…Among them is Futurian War Digest by J. Michael Rosenblum, a British science fiction zine the conscientious objector made during World War II, featuring spacefaring adventurers, robot love affairs, and more. The police kept an eye on Rosenblum during the war, out of concern that he was “publishing seditious materials and of collecting contraband ink and paper,” the museum wall text explains, but one look at its simple but fanciful black-and-white illustrations, and it’s clear this was simply a creative outlet in the midst of a war.
Also on view is work by Herman Poole Blount, better known as the Jazz musician Sun Ra, one of the pioneers of Afro-futurism. In the late 1930s, Sun Ra experienced a life-altering vision in which he went to Saturn and met aliens, and discovered he was not an Earthling, but actually a citizen of outer-space. Ra’s creation of a new identity allowed him to free himself from societal constraints, or as the exhibition’s free zine puts it: “As an interstellar visitor, Sun Ra wasn’t subject to racial violence–he was someone, from somewhere, else.”
(6) SAXON OBIT. Actor John Saxon, known for his roles in three Nightmare on Elm Street movies and Enter the Dragondied July 25 at the age of 83 reports the Chicago Sun-Times. His horror résumé also includes two films for Roger Corman: Queen of Blood (1966) and Battle Beyond the Stars (1980), playing a tyrannical warlord.
(7) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.
July 26, 1968 — Mission Mars premiered. (Called Murder in the Third Dimension in the U.K.) Directed by Nick Webster, it was produced by Everett Rosenthal from a screenplay by Mike St. Clair with the story being written by Aubrey Wisberg. The cast was Darren McGavin, Nick Adams, George De Vries and Michael DeBeausset. Not a single critic at the time like it with one saying it was just a “conventional monster movie” and another commenting that it was “plodding, dull and amateurish“. There’s no rating at Rotten Tomatoes. (CE)
(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]
Born July 26, 1856 – George Bernard Shaw. This great playwright, radical, and wise guy did some SF; Man and Superman, Back to Methuselah, Androcles and the Lion, Too True to Be Good, a few more; two dozen short stories; outside our field, essays, music criticism, plays, preachments. “My method is to take the utmost trouble to find the right thing to say, and then to say it with the utmost levity.” Nobel Prize. (Died 1950) [JH]
Born July 26, 1885 – Paul Bransom. Illustrated The Wind in the Willows, Just-So Stories; comic strip The Latest News from Bugville for The New York Evening Journal. Fifty books of wildlife subjects. Many fine Saturday Evening Post covers. Clinedinst Medal. Here are Ratty and the Wayfarer from Willows, and here is Pan. Here is “The stork was as hungry as when she began” from An Argosy of Fables. Here is Buck leaping in the air from The Call of the Wild. Here is a cover with Joseph Gleeson for Just-So Stories. (Died 1979) [JH]
Born July 26, 1894 – Aldous Huxley. Many know his masterpiece Brave New World, with everything wrong and people made to love it, translated into Bulgarian, Dutch, French, Galician, German, Hungarian, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese, Serbian, Spanish; some, his other SF e.g. After Many a Summer Dies the Swan; his last, Island, with everything right, may be weaker. More novels, essays, short stories, plays and screenplays, poetry, travel. Pacifist and psychedelicist. (Died 1963) [JH]
Born July 26, 1928 — Stanley Kubrick. I’m reasonably sure 2001: A Space Odyssey was the first film I saw by him but Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb was the one that impressed me the most. A Clockwork Orange was just too damn depressing. And I’m not a horror fan as such so I never saw The Shining. Barry Lyndon is great but it’s not genre by any means. (Died 1999.) (CE)
Born July 26, 1929 – Lars-Olov Strandberg. Co-founded SFSF (Scandinavian SF Ass’n); chairman, secretary, or treasurer of its board continuously 1965-2011. Life-long photographer, thus documenting SF cons (see e.g. this fine photo of Kathy & Drew Sanders’ entry in the Masquerade costume competition at Seacon ’79 the 37th Worldcon). Linked Swedish fandom to Denmark, Norway, the United Kingdom. Alvar Appeltofft Award. Fan Guest of Honor at Swecon 2, Interaction the 63rd Worldcon. (Died 2018) [JH]
Born July 26, 1939 – Steve Francis, 81. Some become all-round fans from fanzines; he, from the Dealers’ Room. With wife Sue, mainstays of Rivercon during its twenty-five years; together, Fan Guests of Honor at MidSouthCon 10, Marcon 27, DeepSouthCon 33, Con*Stellation XX. Rebel and Rubble Awards. DUFF (Down Under Fan Fund) delegates. Big Heart, our highest service award. Scheduled to be Fan Guests of Honor at the cancelled 14th NASFiC (North America SF Con, since 1975 held when the Worldcon is overseas) this year. [JH]
Born July 26, 1945 — M. John Harrison, 75. TheViriconium sequence, I hesitate to call it a series, starting with The Pastel City, is some of the most elegant fantasy I’ve read. And I see he’s a SJW as he’s written the Tag, the Cat series which I need to take a look at. He’s not published deep in digital form at this time. (CE)
Born July 26, 1945 — Helen Mirren, 75. She first graces our presences as Hermia in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. She next shows up in a genre role as Alice Rage in The Fiendish Plot of Dr. Fu Manchu, Peter Sellers’ last film. She’s an ever so delicious Morgana in Excalibur and then leaps into the future as Tanya Kirbuk in 2010: The Year We Make Contact. She voices the evil lead role in The Snow Queen, and likewise is Deep Thought in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. (CE)
Born July 26, 1969 — Tim Lebbon, 50. For my money, his best series is The Hidden Cities one he did with Christopher Golden, though his Relics series with protagonist Angela Gough is quite superb as well. He dips into the Hellboy universe with two novels, Unnatural Selection and Fire Wolves, rather capably. (CE)
Born July 26, 1971 – Mary Anne Mohanraj, Ph.D., 49. Co-founded Strange Horizons, editor four years; editor for ten issues of Jaggery. One SF novel, three others; two dozen shorter SF stories of which three in Wild Cards, a dozen others; essays in SH, Fantasy, Uncanny; interviewed in Lightspeed, Locus, Mithila; edited WisCon Chronicles9. Gardener and cook. [JH]
Born July 26, 1978 — Eve Myles, 42. She’s a a Welsh actress from Ystradgynlais, convenient as she played Gwen Cooper on Torchwood which was set in and shot in Cardiff. She previously played the servant girl Gwyneth in the Doctor Who episode “The Unquiet Dead” during the Ninth Doctor’s time. (CE)
Born July 26, 1978 – Elizabeth Tudor, 42. Azerbaijani lawyer and SF author. A dozen novels, as many shorter stories. Here is her Authors Guild page. [JH]
Ten years of planning have gone into New Zealand’s first time hosting the World Science Fiction Convention. Several thousand ardent fans, guests and speakers were due to come to Wellington from around the world – about now.
But organiser Lynelle Howells says the show must go on – and it will this Wednesday to Sunday, in the virtual realm – more than 750 planned talks, sessions and workshops will be beamed out around the world online.
“The world science fiction convention is held in a different city every year, so for it to come down to New Zealand is a really big deal; then of course Covid happened. It’s the first time anybody’s tried to run a WorldCon virtually, but needs must,” she says.
In somewhat surprising news, Patrick Rothfuss’s editor Betsy Wollheim has reported that she is yet to read any material from his next novel, The Doors of Stone, the third and concluding volume in The Kingkiller Chronicle, and notes a lack of communication on the book’s progress.
Rothfuss shot to fame with the first book in the trilogy, The Name of the Wind, in 2007. With over 10 million sales, The Name of the Wind became one of the biggest-selling debut fantasy novels of the century. The second book, The Wise Man’s Fear, did as well on release in 2011. Nine years later, the third book remains unpublished.
The Doors of Stone is probably the second-most-eagerly-awaited fantasy novel of the moment, behind only George R.R. Martin’s The Winds of Winter, which it actually exceeds in waiting time (though only by five months). Martin has providedupdates on The Winds of Winter, albeit extremely infrequent ones, but has recently reported much more significant progress being made. Rothfuss, on the other hand, has maintained near constant zero radio silence on the status of book in recent years, despite posting a picture of an apparently semi-complete draft in 2013 that was circulating among his beta readers….
(12) THE GREATEST STAR TREK SERIES YOU’RE NOT WATCHING. So says Space Command creator Marc Zicree.
I’m the author of The Twilight Zone Companion and also a writer for such shows as Star Trek – The Next Generation, Babylon 5, Deep Space Nine, Sliders and many others.
Recently, I’ve been shooting a new show that I wanted to share with you. And if you can share it with your fans, that would be great (and let them know we have a Kickstarter campaign going in order to shoot more).
The show’s cast (with some of their previous genre credits) includes Doug Jones (Star Trek Discovery, Shape of Water); Christina Moses (A Million Little Things); Neil deGrasse Tyson (Cosmos); Mira Furlan (Lost, Babylon 5); Nichelle Nichols (Star Trek); Robert Picardo (Star Trek Voyager, The Orville); Mike Harney (Orange is the New Black, Project Blue Book); Bruce Boxleitner (Supergirl, Babylon 5, Tron); Bill Mumy (Lost In Space, Babylon 5); Ethan McDowell (Doom Patrol); Barbara Bain (Space: 1999, Mission Impossible); Armin Shimerman (Deep Space Nine, Buffy).
The Pilot Episode
The Animatic Prequel — (combining the completed audio play with the work-in-progress graphic novel).
Our Special Two-Part Pandemic Episode
(13) WANDERERS. In Ken Kalfus’ story “In Little America” at N+1 Magazine, Americans become the world’s illegal migrants.
…For ten months or so I belonged to a crew on a container ship flying a flag of convenience. My passport wouldn’t allow me ashore in most ports. The borderless, visa-free ocean was my home.
The American catastrophe had meanwhile entered a new phase that drained the world of any cruel pleasure it had taken in our downfall. Now the overwhelming sentiment was pity. I followed the news with averted eyes….
The first in-person check presented to a lottery winner in Quebec since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic was presented by an official immune to the disease — a human-sized robot.
Loto-Quebec said it employed the use of a robot designed by a student club at the Montreal-based Ecole de Technologie Superieure, in partnership with Centech, to present Guylaine Desjardins with her check for $4.47 million.
[Thanks to Olav Rokne, John Hertz, Andrew Porter, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Michael Toman, Steven H Silver, Errolwi, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Ttle credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Camestros Felapton.]
Spain’s Ainara Pintor snagged the top honor from over 400 submissions with her gorgeous image of an immunostained mouse-brain slice, titled Neurogarden. The image focuses on the hippocampus area of a single slice, but there are more than 70 million neurons in the mouse brain as a whole, according to Pintor.
Is [it] a big thing? Where on earth have you been for the past two months? Bardcore is booming online, swarming all over YouTube and Reddit, and appealing to what i-D Magazine calls Generation Z’s ‘existential humour’.
Here is a bardcore version of Radiohead’s “Creep” as done by the musician Hildegard von Blingin’.
…Here’s a quandary: How do you make a compelling movie — one with a good measure of fairly graphic violence, by the way — about a group of heroes who can’t be killed? Don’t they always have the upper hand? Won’t they always win? There are clever ways that the story itself gets around this problem, but it’s also absolutely critical that it’s in the hands of a director who understands, and can convey on film, that link between physical vulnerability and humanity. Because one of the things this story is about is that even if you do not die, the pain of cycling through injury after injury, recovery after recovery, reconstitution after reconstitution of your being, is a hard way to exist.
It’s a story that’s partly about the attrition of your spirit that can come from being, very literally, a “survivor.” And particularly because new recruit Nile (KiKi Layne, whom you know from If Beale Street Could Talk) is a black woman and two of her teammates are men who fell in love after being on opposite sides of The Crusades (which is a witty idea, let’s be honest), there is additional subtext here about the churn of violence and the costs of enduring it. Moreover, in a world seized with emergencies that activists are scrambling to address, it is frustrating enough when you feel like years have passed and all the attempts you have made to improve the world have come to nothing. What would it be like to feel that for centuries? For longer? Would you really want the long view? How much perspective could you stand to have about humanity?
More immediately, the plot is this: Andy (Theron) has been doing this the longest. She wants out of the hero business, really, but she can’t escape. She’s pulled into a job with teammates Booker (Matthias Schoenaerts), Joe (Marwan Kenzari) and Nicky (Luca Marinelli). The job, conveyed to them by a man named Copley (Chiwetel Ejiofor) is to rescue a group of kidnapped girls in South Sudan. How can they say no? When it turns out there’s more to the job than meets the eye, she’s confronted by the fact that there are people out there who know about her and her team and wish them no good.
Meanwhile, in Afghanistan, Nile is a young soldier consumed with the wars of the present, and shortly after she discovers that something is very unusual about her response to injury, she winds up in the company of the Old Guard. (They don’t go around calling themselves that, by the way; it would be very corny. And they don’t do it.)
This is the first film I’ve seen in quarantine that felt to me like a proper big summer movie — and yet it transcends so much of what’s sometimes been disappointing about that category. Yes, it’s a comic book movie. Yes, it’s an action movie. Yes, it’s about a team of good-doers. And it’s exciting and satisfying and tense and all those things. But everything from its queer couple to its leading women to its director to its thoughtfulness to its point of view about violence makes it such a welcome addition….
(5) A SHORTER REVIEW OF SOMETHING EVEN OLDER. Brooke Bolander has a concise take. Thread starts here.
Indeed, almost no feature films announced panels for Comic-Con@Home. Paramount, Sony, and Universal are sitting out the convention entirely, while WarnerMedia’s DC Entertainment elected to launch their own virtual fan convention — DC FanDome on Aug. 22 — to promote its suite of film, TV and comic book properties.
The biggest blow for Comic-Con@Home, however, is arguably the lack of participation from marquee Comic-Con participants Marvel Studios and Lucasfilm, which aren’t bringing any of their features or live-action scripted TV series to Comic-Con@Home. Fans had been especially anticipating first looks at Marvel Studios’ upcoming slate, including theatrical releases “Eternals” and “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” and Disney Plus series “Falcon and the Winter Solider” and “WandaVision.”
(7) SFWA DEI. The members of SFWA’s newly-formed Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Committee are:
Alaya Dawn Johnson – traditional novelist
Alex Acks – traditional novelist
Crystal Watanabe – freelance editor
James Beamon – SFWA director-at-large, short fiction writer
Jane Pinckard – writer, game designer, researcher, teacher
Kyle Aisteach – short fiction writer
Michi Trota – SFWA Editor-in-Chief, critical and creative nonfiction writer
Tao Roung Wong – indie novelist
Whitney “Strix” Beltrán – game writer
The committee is developing procedures, and setting its action and scope, and will update the membership soon.
(8) IMAHARA OBIT. Grant Imahara, host of MythBusters’ and White Rabbit Project, has died at the age of 49. The Hollywood Reporter story is here.
…While as part of the MythBusters team he sky-dived and drove stunt cars, on film sets he came into contact with some of the most iconic characters in screen history, installing lights onto Star Wars‘ R2-D2, creating the robot Geoff Peterson for The Late Late Show With Craig Ferguson and working on the Energizer Bunny.
…In his nine years at Lucasfilm, he worked for the company’s THX and Industrial Light and Magic (ILM) divisions. In his years at ILM, he became chief model maker specializing in animatronics and worked on George Lucas’ Star Wars prequels, as well as The Matrix Reloaded, The Matrix Revolutions, Galaxy Quest, XXX: State of the Union, Van Helsing, The Lost World: Jurassic Park, A.I. Artificial Intelligence and Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines.
In 2000, Imahara also competed in Comedy Central’s BattleBots with a robot he built himself called “Deadblow” that won two Middleweight Rumbles, was the first season’s Middleweight runner-up and became the third season’s first-ranked robot.
He was also an actor on The Guild and Star Trek Continues (as Sulu in the latter.)
July 14, 1989 — Muppets From Space premiered. It is the first film since the death of Jim Henson to have an original Muppet-focused plot, and is a breakaway from other Muppet films as it is the only non-musical Muppets film to date. Directed by Tim Hill, it was produced by Brian Henson and Martin G. Baker off a script written by Jerry Juhl, Joey Mazzarino and Ken Kaufman. It starred Dave Goelz, Steve Whitmire, Bill Barretta, Frank Oz (in his last Muppet role), Jeffrey Tambor, F. Murray Abraham, David Arquette, Josh Charles, Hollywood Hogan, Ray Liotta and Andie MacDowell. Some critics really loved it, some really despised it and mourned the passing of Henson. It bombed at the box office. At Rotten Tomatoes, audience reviewers give it a not bad 58% rating.
(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]
Born July 14, 1918 – Ingmar Bergman. Director, writer, producer of film, television, theater, radio; questioning, perhaps re-creating, the human condition. Five dozen films, fifteen dozen plays, half a dozen ours; one is Mozart’s Magic Flute; perhaps not The Magician, whose characters prove to be engaged in theatrical, not supernatural, magic. Three Academy Awards, Golden Bear at Berlin, Palme des Palmes at Cannes, many more. (Died 2007) [JH]
Born July 14, 1926 – Jef De Wulf. For us two dozen covers for works in French, like this and this; also this; five hundred all told. Had his own photography studio, in the end worked with the photo department of a regional newspaper. (Died 1994) [JH]
Born July 14, 1926 — Harry Dean Stanton. My favorite genre role for him? The video for Procul Harum’s “A Whiter Shade of Pale”. No, I’m not kidding. He also played Paul of Tarsus in The Last Temptation of Christ, Harold “Brain” Hellman in Escape from New York, Detective Rudolph “Rudy” Junkins in Christine, Bud in Repo Man, Carl Rod in Twin Peaks twice, Toot-Toot in The Green Mile, Harvey in Alien Autopsy and a Security Guard in The Avengers. He didn’t do a lot of genre tv, one episode of The Wild Wild West as Lucius Brand in “The Night of The Hangman” and a character named Lemon on Alfred Hitchcock Presents in the “Escape to Sonoita” episode. (Died 2017.) (CE)
Born July 14, 1939 – George Slusser, Ph.D. Eight books of SF criticism; anthologies of papers at U. Cal. Riverside’s Eaton Conference; Professor of Comparative Literature, first Curator of the Eaton Collection, Director of the Eaton Program for SF Studies. “Clarke, along with Asimov and Heinlein … human dramas determined by advances in science and technology… to blend two otherwise opposite activities.” Pilgrim Award. (Died 2014) [JH]
Born July 14, 1943 — Christopher Priest, 77. This is the Birthday of the One and True Christopher Priest. If I was putting together an introductory reading list to him, I’d start with The Prestige, add in the Islanders and its companion volume, The Dream Archipelago. Maybe Inverted World as well. How’s that sound? (CE)
Born July 14, 1949 — Nick Bantock, 71. This is a bit of a puzzler for me. He’s the creator of The Griffin and Sabine Trilogy and The Morning Star Trilogy, a series of faux letters and postcards telling a story between two individuals. ISFDB lists it as genre but I’ve never heard it described as such before, and it certainly isn’t shelved as such in bookstores that I’ve frequented. Who’s read it here? (CE)
Born July 14, 1960 – Michèle de Laframboise, 60. A dozen novels for us, as many shorter stories in Abyss & Apex, Galaxies, Tesseract (“Women Are From Mars, Men Are From Venus”); others too. For one of her books she did this cover with Jean-Pierre Normand. Translated into German, Italian, Russian. Three Auroras, Prix Cécile-Gagnon, Prix Solaris. Website (in English and French, of course) here. [JH]
Born July 14, 1960 – Larry Segriff, 60. Two novels of Tom Jenkins, a young adult who finds adventure in the stars. Ten shorter stories. Three Tom Clancy Net Force tie-ins. Ten anthologies with Martin H. Greenberg. Productive and competent. [JH]
Born July 14, 1964 — Jane Espenson, 56. She had a five-year stint as a writer and producer on Buffy the Vampire Slayer where she shared a Hugo Award at Torcon 3 for her writing on the “Conversations with Dead People” episode, and she shared another Hugo at Chicon 7 for Games of Thrones, season one. She was on the the writing staff for the fourth season of Torchwood and executive produced Caprica. And yes, she had a stint on the rebooted Galactica. (CE)
Born July 14, 1966 — Brian Selznick, 54. Illustrator and writer best known as the writer of The Invention of Hugo Cabret which may or may not be genre. You decide. His later work, Wonderstruck, definitely is. The Marvels, a story of a travelling circus family is magical in its own right though not genre. (CE)
Born July 14, 1979 – Yukiko Montoya, 41. Novelist, playwright and theatrical director, radio and television host. Akutagawa, Noma, Mishima, Ôe Prizes; Nanboku and Kishida Drama Awards. Recent collection in English, The Lonesome Bodybuilder. The New York Times says she wins over her audience by pushing the absurd to extremes. For example, in “The Straw Husband” the narrator’s husband is – [JH]
Born July 14, 1989 — Sara Canning, 31. Major roles in A Series of Unfortunate Events, Primeval: New World and The Vampire Dairies, she also appeared in Once Upon a Time, War for the Planet Of The Apes, Android Employed, Supernatural and Smallville to name some of her other genre work. (CE)
(11) COMICS SECTION.
TwistedDoodles translates parenting into genre:
(12) MR. RICO GOES TO WASHINGTON. David Gerrold told Facebook readers “Starship Troopers is the single most misunderstood book in the entire SF genre.” An excerpt:
….Now, to be fair — Heinlein stacked the deck. Not the first time, not the last time. In this book, the enemy exist as a relentless, unending horde of mindless giant insects. Bugs. There is nothing there to empathize with. They are killing machines — chitinous terminators. The only response is kill or be killed. And in that context, Heinlein’s assertin is justifiable.
Now, consider if the enemy was not some kind of alien bug — but instead, another branch of humanity. Or even just another nation with a shared border. And consider that the battle is not so much a fight to the death, but an argument over whether eggs should be broken at the big end or the little end. At that point, the whole discussion of military service breaks down with one simple question, “Are you fucking kidding me? You want me to die on that fucking hill?”
Second question? How well did Heinlein do it? Well, we’re still talking about the book 60 years later, so I would say that he did a damn good job. Except that we’re not just talking about the book, we’re arguing ferociously about it. So maybe his point wasn’t as clear as he intended it to be. The accusations of fascism have pretty much obscured the more interesting point, which is worth discussion even if we’re not at war:
What is the obligation of a citizen toward the nation in which he lives? If the citizen benefits from their participation, what is their obligation — but also if the citizen does not benefit, what are their options?…
(13) STAR WARS IN THE NEWS. From the New York Times article, “Headed to the Convention? No I, More Republicans are Saying”:
…Everyone in the media wants to act like it’s some big deal that Susan Collins and Lamar Alexander aren’t going to the convention,” said Representative Matt Gaetz of Florida. “The reality is the number of delegates craving the octogenarians and septuagenarians of the Senate are surely lower than the number who have purchased their third Star Wars costume….
…They can respond to questions, swim happily in shopping mall display tanks, and withstand close contact that would usually be harmful to real animals – without any ethical problems. And they could soon be coming to aquariums in China.
Entrepreneurs in New Zealand are working with American creators of some of Hollywood’s most famous creatures to develop animatronic dolphins that look almost identical to their living counterparts.
A robotic dolphin that can nod an answer to a child – thanks to the human controlling it by remote – might sound unappealing or disconcerting. But as marine parks around the world face increasing pressure to abandon exhibitions featuring real whales and dolphins, the creatures provide an appealing alternative, their creators say.
… Since its invention, pencils — made of lead including various levels of graphite, clay and wax — have often been used for writing and drawing. In the study, the researchers discovered that pencils containing more than 90% graphite are able to conduct a high amount of energy created from the friction between paper and pencil caused by drawing or writing. Specifically, the researchers found pencils with 93% graphite were the best for creating a variety of on-skin bioelectronic devices drawn on commercial office copy paper. Yan said a biocompatible spray-on adhesive could also be applied to the paper to help it stick better to a person’s skin.
(16) THE PERFECT IS THE ENEMY. HBO Max dropped a trailer for the animated series Close Enough, which premiered on the channel last week.
…I first came across this legend when I was researching a book, which was subsequently called The Lantern Men. I soon found out that there are many myths and legends about mysterious lights appearing on marshland at night. One version links them to a wicked blacksmith called Jack who tricks the devil and so escapes hell but can never be allowed into heaven. Jack is condemned to walk the earth forever, carrying a single coal from hell inside a pumpkin. The tradition of putting lighted candles into pumpkins at Halloween, also known as jack o’ lanterns, probably comes from this fable.
Jack is not the only creature abroad at night. Sometimes the blacksmith is called Will and, in English folklore, marsh lights are often called will o’ the wisps, wisp meaning a bundle of twigs tied together to make a torch. There are some regional variations, hobby lanterns in the north and pixie lights in Devon and Cornwall, where hapless travelers are said to be ‘pixie led’.
The United Arab Emirates will despatch a satellite to Mars to study its weather and climate this week.
Hope, as the 1.3-tonne probe is called, is launching on an H-2A rocket from Japan’s remote Tanegashima spaceport.
The 500-million-km journey should see the robotic craft arrive in February 2021 – in time for the 50th anniversary of the UAE’s formation.
Lift-off is scheduled for 05:43 local time on Friday (20:43 GMT; 21:43 BST on Thursday).
An earlier attempt on Wednesday was called off ahead of time because of expected poor weather conditions over Tanegashima.
…Why is the UAE going to Mars?
The UAE has limited experience of designing and manufacturing spacecraft – and yet here it is attempting something only the US, Russia, Europe and India have succeeded in doing. But it speaks to the Emiratis’ ambition that they should dare to take on this challenge.
Their engineers, mentored by American experts, have produced a sophisticated probe in just six years – and when this satellite gets to Mars, it’s expected to deliver novel science, revealing fresh insights on the workings of the planet’s atmosphere.
In particular, scientists think it can add to our understanding of how Mars lost much of its air and with it a great deal of its water.
The Hope probe is regarded very much as a vehicle for inspiration – something that will attract more young people in the Emirates and across the Arab region to take up the sciences in school and in higher education.
A rare version of the classic 1985 Super Mario Bros has sold at auction for $114,000 (£90,000), the most ever paid for a video game.
The cartridge, still in its original packaging, sold to an anonymous bidder.
And the US auctioneer said demand “was extremely high”, partly because this particular packaging had been used for a short while only.
The previous record for an auctioned game was $100,000 – for a different copy of Super Mario.
(20) NOT ZERO YET. In Godzilla: King of the Monsters Pitch Meeting on ScreenRant, Ryan George explains that the film has lots of characters who utter “science words” and Snarky Countdown Guy, who is snarky when he isn’t counting things down.
[Thanks to Rob Thornton, John Hertz, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Michael Toman, Martin Morse Wooster, Daniel Dern, Contrarius, Mike Kennedy, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]
Whitehead, 50, is the youngest winner of the lifetime achievement prize, which the library has previously given to Toni Morrison, Philip Roth and Denis Johnson, among others. He is the first author to win Pulitzers for consecutive works of fiction — “The Underground Railroad” and “The Nickel Boys,” for which he won in April.
(2) WHY HE HAD TO LEAVE. Edmund Schluessel reports on his experiences with Finncon 2020, which took place this past Friday-Sunday online and was based in Tampere, Finland. “Finncon 2020. So.”
I was quite sanguine about Finncon 2019. I praised the “more thriving, more diverse, more accepting community” I had found in Finland.
Thus this post is difficult to write. I’ll start with the part of Finncon 2020 I was there for, then talk about why I had to leave….
(3) HOLIDAY ON KLENDATHU. [Item by Olav Rokne.] Writing at The Verge, Joshua Rivera examines the legacy and impact of Paul Verhoeven’s 1997 film adaptation of Starship Troopers, linking to several other articles that examine the movie’s newfound relevance to America’s current political divisions. I know this film gets debated endlessly around these parts, but to my eye, the fact that a quarter century later people outside the SFF community are still debating its meaning and parsing its subtext is a good indication that Starship Troopers has enduring value. “The world is finally coming around to Starship Troopers”
I’m here to see the fireworks, and rare is the blockbuster that is interested in forcing me to question that.
(5) SWEDISH HOPES UP. Fantastika, the Swedish national con or Swecon, is off for this year so they’ve named a date for the event in 2021. (We had the cancellation a few days ago, but not the new date.)
The Committee has decided to cancel the convention in October due to the corona pandemic. We have instead booked the venue, Dieselverkstaden, for the weekend April 9-11, 2021, i e the weekend after Easter. We sincerely hope that it will be possible to have the convention at that time. Please note that this is not the same date as the one that we previously considered.
If you wish to have the membership refunded you need to send me an e-mail with information on how I should send it, e g via PayPal. If you have already got a refund you are of course welcome to pay the membership again.
(6) DEEPSOUTHCON HOPES DOWN BUT NOT OUT. CONtraflow chair Frank Schiavo told Facebook followers the event (which is also this year’s DeepSouthCon) has been postponed to 2021. But there may be a virtual DeepSouthCon on the original weekend.
After much discussion, long board meetings, working back and forth with the host hotel, city/parish/state leadership, and Southern Fandom Confederation/Deep South Con representatives , the board of directors of CONtraflow has come to the following conclusion: under current conditions, we cannot give you the amazing Fan experience that you all have come to expect from the previous nine years of CONtraflow. We must reschedule CONtraflow 10, originally scheduled for this coming November 13-15. Hosting our convention as usual in 2020 is impossible in these pandemic conditions, as they currently are and will be for the foreseeable future. There are simply too many unknowns at play at this time. Our only responsible, reasonable, and possible choice is to reschedule CONtraflow 10. Please know this decision is as tough and painful for us as it is for all of you. We didn’t make it lightly and hope you will support our decision.
I am sure most of you have questions about the rescheduled event. I’ll try to answer a few of the big ones.
The new date for CONtraflow 10 is October 1-3, 2021 at the Airport Hilton in Kenner, Louisiana. We are currently working on guests and speakers for the new convention dates. We’ll have a first flier about the new dates up on social media for you to share in the next few days. We are planning to have a more detailed flier with guests and major events up and out there online before the end of September.
…As for the DeepSouthCon 58 (2020) to be hosted by CONtraflow this year, there are plans for a virtual DeepSouthCon 58 mini convention featuring panels, programming, the annual SFC meeting and the Hearts tournament, and more on the Saturday of the original convention weekend (November 14, 2020). We are working out the details of online hosting and any possible costs and will be updating you with details of the virtual DSC in the coming weeks….
(7) A STRANGE PROLOGUE. Rob Hansen has added “THE 1971 EASTERCON” to his THEN British fanhistory website, complete with the usual cornucopia of photos. It includes this account of a bizarre chain of events:
THE BRIAN ALDISS GoH SAGA – Peter Weston
At SCI-CON 70:
Brian confided that this was the second time he had been asked to be Guest of Honour but had then been required to step down. We were suitably shocked, as he went on to explain how he had been invited as GoH for 1969 in Oxford, but when a new committee had taken over, headed by John Brunner, they had wanted to have Judith Merril instead. George Hay had heard about this, thought it was a bit poor, and so he had asked Brian to be GoH in 1970, which he had accepted. Then George heard that James Blish was moving to England and he did exactly the same thing, pushing out Brian once again in favour of a supposed bigger “name.” Rog and I were suitably disgusted, and promptly offered to make amends. We would bid for the 1971 Eastercon and would do it properly. We promised to find a decent hotel and make Brian our Guest of Honour. (p.191)
Suddenly, however, we hit double trouble. Brian Aldiss resigned as Guest of Honour, and this was immediately followed by the start of a postal strike. Brian’s letter was a bombshell! The only reason Rog and I had taken on the convention was to do justice to him, and now he was dropping out for no very good reason, saying vaguely that he “might be living in Hong Kong for a while.”
What’s the biggest weakness in your writing these days, and how do you cope with it?
I mentioned cross-tension earlier, which I love. The thorn in my side, however, is forward tension.
To start us on the same page, by forward tension I mean the often external plot tension that pulls a reader through the story. In my Bourshkanya Trilogy, this tends to be resistance activities to weaken or tear down the fascist state. In general, fighting the big bad, and the sequence of events that leads to it, tends to be high in forward tension as the characters try and fail, as the villain pursues them, etc.
Cross-tension, by contrast, occurs between characters who have opposing, potentially unreconcilable beliefs. Both characters may try to do what they believe is right or necessary, may even care deeply for one another, but with the underpinnings of their belief structures in conflict, they’re forced onto opposite sides, e.g., a resistance fighter and a loyal State soldier. Secrets flourish in this soil, as do the juiciest (in my opinion) of all fiction elements: well-motivated, understandable yet heartbreaking betrayals. Or not. Opposing beliefs can be reconciled, which is part of what makes them so delightful. Cross-tension can also arise between a character and elements of the world, e.g., a resistance fighter who has to pretend loyalty to the State.
From my description, you can probably tell how much I love cross-tension. It makes my brain sing and is one reason I love having multiple POVs on both sides of a tricky moral line.
(9) HELP NEEDED. Jenny Parks, the author of Star Trek Cats (2017) and Star Trek: The Next Generation Cats (2018) has an online fundraiser for treatment of her Hodgkin’s lymphoma: “Jenny Parks Cancer Relief Fund”. As of today, people have donated $10,462 of the $25,000 goal. Ben Bird Person submitted the item with these images of “some of her art she’s done for me!”
(10) PRESTON OBIT. Actress Kelly Preston, whose best-known sff role was in the 1986 film Space Camp, died July 12 of cancer. (The New York Times tribute is here.) She had a brief cameo with her husband John Travolta in Battlefield Earth (2000). On This Date In Science Fiction History takes an extended look at her genre resume in “Stardate 07.13.2020.A: In Memoriam – Kelly Preston”.
(11) CRAWFORD OBIT. Small press publisher Gary William Crawford (1953-2020) died July 9.He founded Gothic Press in 1979, serving as its editor, as well as the author of many published works in Gothic literature.
From 1979 to 1987, Crawford produced six issues of the journal Gothic, and later, the press published the horror poetry magazine Night Songs. Crawford recently began the online journal, Le Fanu Studies.
(12) BRECHA OBIT. Sff writer F. Alexander Brejcha (1957-2019), whose first story was published in Analog in 1992, died in February 2019 it was recently learned. A collection of his short fiction, People First!!, was released in 2004, as was a collection of three novellas, No World Warranty.
(13) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.
July 13, 1960 — Irwin Allen’s version of The Lost World premiered. Based on the Arthur Conan Doyle novel. It was directed by him, produced by him with the assistance of Cliff Reid, and he wrote the screenplay with the help of Charles Bennett. The cast included Claude Rains, David Hedison, Fernando Lamas, Jill St. John, and Michael Rennie. Financing was so limited that the monsters were monitor lizards, iguanas, and crocodiles affixed with miniature horns and fins. Critics weren’t fond of it, it did poorly at the box office, and the audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it a scathingly poor 20% rating.
(14) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]
Born July 13, 1796 – William Harvey. Engraver and designer. Woodblocks for e.g. Bewick’s Aesop, Northcote’s Fables, Lane’s Arabian Nights. Here is “Ali of Cairo”; here is “The Merchant and the Jinni” (note, jinni is the singular, jinn the plural); here is “Sayf al-Muluk and Badi’a al-Jamal”. Here is a portrait of Defoe, and title page, for Robinson Crusoe. (Died 1866) [JH]
Born July 13, 1864 – John Astor IV. Possibly the richest man in the world when he went down with the Titanic; wrote A Journey in Other Worlds set in what is now our past, the year 2000, with travel to Jupiter and Saturn powered by antigravity. (Died 1912) [JH]
Born July 13, 1904 — Norvell W. Page. Chief writer of The Spider pulp series as Grant Stockbridge. He started out by writing a backup story in the first issue of The Spider pulp: “Murder Undercover” and by the third issue was writing the main Spider stories which he did for some seventy stories. He also wrote The Black Bat and The Phantom Detective pulps. (Died 1961.) (CE)
Born July 13, 1926 — Robert H. Justman. Producer and director who worked on many a genre series including Adventures of Superman, The Outer Limits, Star Trek, Mission: Impossible, Man from Atlantis and Star Trek: The Next Generation. He was the assistant director for the first two Star Trek episodes: “The Cage” and “Where No Man Has Gone Before”. (Died 2008.) (CE)
Born July 13, 1926 – Dik Daniels. For years a prominent photographer, to whom we owe many such records. Widely, long, and uncelebratedly enough helpful that he was given the Big Heart, our highest service award. Some photos 1968-2001 on this Website. (Died about 2001) [JH]
Born July 13, 1937 — Jack Purvis. He appeared in three of director Terry Gilliam’s early fantasy films, with roles in Time Bandits, The Adventures of Baron Munchausen and Brazil. He’s in three of the Star Wars films, the only actor he claims to have played three different roles, and he’s also in Wombling Free (based on The Womblies, a UK Children’s series), The Dark Crystal and Willow. (Died 1997.) (CE)
Born July 13, 1940 — Sir Patrick Stewart OBE, 80. Jean-Luc Picard, starting with being Captain of the USS Enterprise (NCC-1701-D) on Star Trek: The Next Generation up though the current Star Trek: Picard. Also had some minor role in the MCU as Professor Charles Xavier, and played Leodegrance in Excalibur. Though not even genre adjacent, I’m fond of his role as King Henry II in The Lion in Winter. (CE)
Born July 13, 1942 — Harrison Ford, 78. Three great roles of course. First, being Dr. Henry Walton “Indiana” Jones, Jr. in the Indiana Jones franchise which is four films deep with a fifth on the way. The second, of course, being Han Solo in the Star Wars franchise, a role he’s done four times plus a brief cameo in The Rise of Skywalker. And the third being Rick Deckard in Blade Runner, a role he reprised for Blade Runner 2049. Oh ,and he played the older Indy at age fifty in the Young Indiana Jones Chronicles in the “Young Indiana Jones and the Mystery of the Blues” episode. (CE)
Born July 13, 1953 — Chip Hitchcock, 67. To quote Fancyclopedia, Chip Hitchcock “is a con-running fan living in the Boston area. He is a member of NESFA and MCFI and has worked on a great many conventions including Worldcons at the Division Head level, Boskones and numerous other regionals.“ Happy Birthday, Chip! (CE)
Born July 13, 1954 – Gary Feldbaum, 66. First SF con, Boskone 15 (Fancyclopedia 3 and some others call the first Boskones I-V i.e. through 1945; the current ones, starting in 1965, 1-57 so far). Moved to Philadelphia; happening to be a lawyer when one was wanted incorporated the Philadelphia SF Soc. (PSFS); chaired six Philcons. Has worked on Worldcons on three continents. Might be found heading a Division or ushering for the Masquerade. [JH]
Born July 13, 1965 – Tomoyuki Hoshino, 55. Two novels, a dozen shorter stories for us; nine more novels. Bungei, Mishima, Noma, Ôe, Yomiuri, Tanizaki Prizes. Born in Los Angeles, lived in Mexico long enough to get work in Japan translating Spanish-language movies. Teaches creative writing at his alma mater Waseda U. Me and the collection We, the Children of Cats are available in English. [JH]
Born July 13, 1981 – Monica Byrne, 39.The Girl in the Road won a Tiptree Award (as it then was); translated into German. Nine shorter stories in, on, or at Electric Velocipede, Fantasy, The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, Shimmer. Plays. A TED Talk (Technology, Entertainment, Design). Non-fiction in The Atlantic, Huffington Post, Virginia Quarterly Review. Website. [JH]
This week in The Full Lid we have a first!! Matt Wallace’s Savage Legion is out in a couple of weeks and as part of the coverage for it, I’m delighted to run an original flash fiction piece by Matt, along with one by myself. Matt’s one of my favorite writers and people and it’s a delight to see him doing excellent work like this piece and the upcoming novel.
Elsewhere I take a look at the graphic novel new Netflix movie The Old Guard was adapted from. Finally, I take a look at unfairly overlooked crime/science fiction/magic movie Sleight.
How did this all dovetail with your interest in science fiction?
There’s no point in my life when I don’t remember reading science fiction. My dad and I would — actually the whole family, but dad and I particularly — would listen to Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy when it was on the radio. We’d watch Star Trek, Battlestar Galactica; I read all of the things. But it is for me again, the thing that I said at the beginning about the ways science fiction and fantasy for me allows us to ask big questions.
Connie Willis set a thing once, which made me go “Oh, yes, that’s why I like it so much.” She said that she thinks that the difference between science fiction and fantasy and mimetic fiction or everyday fiction is that in mimetic fiction, you have ordinary problems, but then your character has to have an outsized or an extraordinary response to an ordinary problem. Like, someone’s husband is cheating on them, it’s not just, that they go stay with a family member; they go to the PTA and they stand on the table and they confront the person that he was having an affair with in order to drive the plot — you have to have this extraordinary reaction to cause the plot to move forward.
Whereas in science fiction and fantasy, we have extraordinary events taking place, which allows people to have normal, proportionate responses. And that made me understand part of why I like science fiction and fantasy, but it also made me realize that it gives us an opportunity to present a much more faithful representation of honest human emotion. The things that happen to us in our real world can be as as rocking or earth-shattering as a meteor hitting. There can be things that are as deeply traumatic. But most of those things aren’t enough to drive a plot. I feel like that’s doing a disservice to people who write mimetic naturalistic fiction, because I certainly have read stuff where people are having completely normal responses to completely normal events, but speaking in very general terms, it is an opportunity that science fiction offers.
…Robinson was one of the figures to come out of the mid-20th century sci-fi short story scene, penning techno-thrillers for various pulp publications. His thriller The Glass Inferno, written with Thomas Scortia, was one of two books that were combined to make the classic 1974 disaster film The Towering Inferno. He also was known for being the speechwriter for Harvey Milk, the gay San Francisco politician who was assassinated in 1978.
Hunting Season will follow a law officer from the future who is declared an enemy of the state and sentenced to be executed by being sent to the past and stalked by a posse. The man has three days to acclimate to his new era and find a way to survive.
While in grad school, one of the things my professors constantly warned against during discussions was falling into the trap of counterfactual speculation. When discussing and debating the causes and events of the medieval period, we were to confine ourselves to theories that could be supported by the primary sources and archaeological evidence. The fact that I did not become an historian and founded the Sidewise Award for Alternate History may give some indication of how well I adhered to those rules.
(20) PAGING DR. HOWARD, DR. FINE, DR. HOWARD… [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Pick six of your most intelligent, fittest friends. Now imagine the seven of you are on a mission to Mars & you have appendicitis. Which friend do you pick to be your surgeon? Mind you, none of them have medical training. “From floating guts to ‘sticky’ blood – here’s how to do surgery in space” at The Conversation.
… Surgery in microgravity is possible and has already been been carried out, albeit not on humans yet. For example, astronauts have managed to repair rat tails and perform laparoscopy – a minimally invasive surgical procedure used to examine and repair the organs inside the abdomen – on animals, while in microgravity.
These surgeries have led to new innovations and improvements such as magnetising surgical tools so they stick to the table, and restraining the “surgeonaut” too.
One problem was that, during open surgery, the intestines would float around, obscuring view of the surgical field. To deal with this, space travellers should opt for minimally invasive surgical techniques, such as keyhole surgery, ideally occurring within patients’ internal cavities through small incisions using a camera and instruments.
Now, the patrol robot has been adapted so it can also disinfect surfaces as it patrols, and is attracting interest from Tokyo’s Metro stations as well as other businesses.
In May, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe noted surging demand for unmanned deliveries and pledged to carry out tests to see if delivery robots were safe to use on roads and sidewalks by the end of the year.
Even the self-driving wheelchair can come into its own amid a coronavirus-filled world, the company said, potentially helping elderly people move around more independently without a helper who might be a vector for the virus.
Johnnie Walker, the whisky which traces its roots back 200 years, will soon be available in paper bottles.
Diageo, the drinks giant that owns the brand, said it plans to run a trial of the new environmentally-friendly packaging from next year.
While most Johnnie Walker is sold in glass bottles, the firm is looking for ways of using less plastic across its brands.
Making bottles from glass also consumes energy and creates carbon emissions.
To make the bottles, Diageo will co-launch a firm called Pulpex, which will also produce packaging for the likes of Unilever and PepsiCo.
Diageo’s paper whisky bottle, which will be trialled in spring 2021, will be made from wood pulp and will be fully recyclable, the company said.
The idea is that customers would be able to drop them straight into the recycling.
(24) TUCKER INTERVIEW, PART DEUX. Fanac.org has posted the second segment of the Bob Tucker interview done for Chicon 2000.
Dick Smith’s interview of Wilson “Bob” Tucker was done for Chicon 2000, that year’s World SF Convention. Here in Part 2, the stories keep coming (and Bob is an excellent storyteller). Tucker talks about Claude Degler’s first appearance in fandom and how Jack Speer (later Judge Speer) got into trouble. There’s more about Chicon 1, how he learned about the internet and how fandom has changed in the preceding 60 years. You’ll even hear how Bob ended up joining the N3F after decades in fandom. Videography by Tom Veal, Chairman of Chicon 2000.
[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Mlex, Olav Rokne, “Orange Mike” Lowrey, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, Ben Bird Person, John King Tarpinian, Rich Lynch, Steven H Silver, Michael Toman, John Hertz, JJ, Cat Eldridge, and Chip Hitchcock for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Peer.]
… Cora has been doing the hard working of promoting self-published and small press SF&F for years. While sections of fandom have been trying to reframe publishing mode as some kind of partisan ideological battle, Cora has been writing, publishing and promoting indie sci-fi consistently and in a way designed to enhance science fiction writing….
Long before the coronavirus pandemic, tabletop board games were having something of a renaissance, with popular games like The Settlers of Catan and Ticket to Ride becoming mainstream additions to family game nights.
Then, COVID-19 hit and, as Quartz reported, it changed how many hobbyist board game creators approached the industry. But for many people who suddenly found themselves stuck at home under lockdown, the pandemic also spurred newfound interest in strategy games that require creativity and concentration. Board game hobbyists had more time to spend learning about new games coming out, while newbies to the scene were discovering a world beyond classics like Monopoly and Clue.
Then, on March 30, the board game Frosthaven — the dungeon crawling, highly-anticipated sequel to the hit game Gloomhaven — surpassed its funding goal of $500,000 on Kickstarter in mere hours. Today, it is the most-funded board game on the site ever, with nearly $13 million pledged toward funding the game’s development. Only two projects have ever crowdsourced more funding on the site.
Frosthaven’s success seemed to exemplify a shift that has been happening in the tabletop gaming community for years: toward games that are not only focused on strategy and adventure, but also a new type of funding model where fans have more say than ever in which games move from the idea stage to their living rooms. And hobbyist tabletop games are a different breed of entertainment altogether.
“You have mass market games, which are Monopoly and everything that you find at Target or Toys “R” Us, and you have hobbyist games, which you typically find at your FLGS — your friendly local gaming store,” said Cree Wilson, the programming and tabletop gaming manager for Comicpalooza. “Then there’s this blurry line of stuff in between, which I’ve heard sometimes called entertainment gaming, and it’s games selling tens of thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands of copies, but isn’t selling millions yet.”
For many of these smaller games, funding from fans has proved essential. Hasbro, the company that makes games like Monopoly and Connect 4, earns hundreds of millions each year through everything from game sales and licensing deals to its TV and film business. But funding models are far different for newer or smaller game makers. These makers have become part of one of the country’s most popular quarantine hobbies, but they’ve done so through a mini-economy that relies on crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter.
… “A few weeks ago, my friend and colleague Brent Spiner tweeted a hilarious musical spoof of himself that inspired me to do something in my characteristically more sophisticated manner, as an homage,” Picardo says in a statement about his new video. “My good friend James Marlowe (The Marlowe-Pugnetti Company) directed a crack mini-crew. Legendary event planner and TV personality Edward Perotti does a great cameo.”
And by popular demand, the Brent Spiner video he is reacting to:
The Covid-19 pandemic all but halted Hollywood. Production on most movies and television shows (except for a handful of animated programs) became too risky, and ceased. It’s only in the last few weeks that organizations like SAG-AFTRA and the Directors Guild of America have begun publishing guidelines for how cast and crew members might safely return to work. In this lull, however, studios are still cobbling together their stockpiled footage and releasing tantalizing trailers for upcoming projects. The most recent to ricochet around the internet? A first look at Apple TV+’s adaptation of Isaac Asimov’s beloved Foundation series.
Even if you’ve never read the Asimov novels, which were first published in the 1950s, every science fiction fan has felt their influence, especially in genre classics like Star Wars. Much of the plot concerns the fall of a certain Galactic Empire (ahem), and a desperate, surprisingly math-heavy attempt to save human civilization from a vast, bleak dark age. Apple’s adaptation, which is due to hit the tech giant’s streaming platform sometime in 2021, features stars like Jared Harris (Chernobyl) and Lee Pace (Halt and Catch Fire) and, based on the first teaser, looks epic. One of the people behind that epic-ness is Leigh Dana Jackson, Foundation’s co-executive producer. He can’t talk much about his new show yet, but WIRED still picked his brain about Asimov, Covid-19, and genre fiction’s unique capacity to capture revolution.
(6) TRIVIAL TRIVIA.
Published fifty-nine years ago as a novel by Ace Books, Fritz Leiber’s The Big Time started out as a two-part serial in Galaxy Magazine‘s March and April 1958 issues. It would win the Hugo Award for Best Novel or Novelette at Solacon. In general, it was well-received with Algis Budrys liking it but noting it was more of a play than an actual novel. In 2012, it was selected for inclusion in the Library of America’s two-volume compilation American Science Fiction: Nine Classic Novels of the 1950s. (CE)
(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]
Born July 5, 1878 – Howard Brown. A hundred covers for us, forty interiors; only a small part of his prodigious work. Cover artist for Scientific American 1913-1931. Argosy, Radio News, Science and Invention. Main cover artist for Astounding while Tremaine was editor. Also Startling and Thrilling Wonder. Here is the January 1934 Astounding. Here is the November 1938. Here is the May 1940 Startling. Here is an interior for At the Mountains of Madness (April 1934 Astounding). Here is HB’s cover for the April 1934 Astounding and a more detailed biography. (Died 1945) [JH]
Born July 5, 1935 – John Schoenherr. Two hundred covers, seven hundred interiors. Here is Starship Troopers. Here is The Tomorrow People. Here is the August 1980 Analog. Here is the March 1965 Analog with the beginning of Dune that made JS famous for illustrating this story. Here is an interior for Children of Dune. Here is his cover for Jane Yolen’s Owl Moon (1987) for which JS won the Caldecott Medal. See also “The Role of the Artist in Science Fiction” (with Kelly Freas, Jack Gaughan, Eddie Jones, Karel Thole), Noreascon I Proceedings (29th Worldcon). Here is Kurt Snavely’s treatment of JS. Here is Ian Schoenherr’s. Hugo for Best Pro Artist, 1965. Guest of Honor at Boskone 14, Lunacon 25. SF Hall of Fame. (Died 2010) [JH]
Born July 5, 1941 — Garry Kilworth, 79. The Ragthorn, a novella co-authored with Robert Holdstock, which won the World Fantasy Award. It’s an excellent read and it makes me wish I’d read other fiction by him. Anyone familiar with his work? (CE)
Born July 5, 1944 – Cathy Hill, 76. Known in particular for drawing raccoons – cartoon raccoons. Here is “Raccoons on the Moon”; here is “The Lisping Asteroid”, which was used for the cover of The “Rowrbrazzle” Sampler. The raccoons even got involved with Cerebus the Aardvark; and CH published Mad Raccoons. Here is an index of her comic-book work. She’s done more, in and out of our field: here is Locus 52 from its fanzine days, with her logograph (note that her puzzled aliens get it wrong); here is her cover for the 1979 printing of The Blue World; here is her cover for the original Keep Watching the Skies! (note propeller beanie). Here is a dinosaur she drew for Don Glut. Her oil paintings will have to wait for another time. [JH]
Born July 5, 1948 — William Hootkins. One of these rare performers who showed up playing secondary roles in a number of major film franchises. He was the Rebel pilot Jek Tono Porkins in Star Wars, he played Munson in the Flash Gordon film, he was Major Eaton, one of the two officers who gave Indy his orders in Raiders of The Lost Ark, and he was Lt Eckhardt in the 1989 Batman. (Died 2005.) (CE)
Born July 5, 1957 — Jody Lynn Nye, 63. She’s best-known for collaborating with Robert Asprin on the ever so excellent MythAdventures series. Since his death, she has continued that series and she is now also writing sequels to his Griffen McCandle series as well. She’s got a space opera series, The Imperium, out now which sounds intriguing. (CE)
Born July 5, 1958 — Nancy Springer, 62. May I recommend her Tales of Rowan Hood series of which her Rowan Hood: Outlaw Girl of Sherwood Forest is a most splendid revisionist telling of that legend? And her Enola Holmes Mysteries are a nice riffing off of the Holmsiean mythos. (CE)
Born July 5, 1963 — Alma Alexander, 57. Sixteen novels, a dozen shorter stories, for us; more outside our field. The Secrets of Jin-Shei has been translated into fourteen languages; three sequels. God of the Unmage has Nikola Tesla. Of writing The Second Star, just released a few days ago, she says “dream fragments … wash up tantalizingly as flotsam and jetsam on the shores of coming awake. One such fragment lay glittering on that shore one morning – a single sentence … a soul is like a starfish”; this proves to bear on interstellar travel. She likes coffee, cherries, and sonnets. [JH]
Born July 5, 1964 — Ronald D. Moore, 56. Screenwriter and producer who’s best-remembered for his work on Star Trek: The Next Generation where he fleshed out the Klingon race and culture, on the rebooted Battlestar Galactica, and Outlander. He’s the creator and writer of For All Mankind. (CE)
Born July 5, 1985 – Meagan Spooner, 35. Ten novels (five with Amy Kaufman). Shadowlark had a Booklist starred review; Hunted, a Kirkus starred review. These Broken Stars (with AK) was a New York Times Best-Seller and won an Aurealis Award. Here’s how she ranks some books I know: Euripedes, Electra, The Phoenician Women, The Bacchae (4.21); Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest (4.18); Austen, Persuasion (4.14); Rostand, Cyrano de Bergerac (4.07); Adams, Watership Down (4.06). She plays guitar, video games, and with her cat. [JH]
For those of you who saw this Sunday’s strip, I know you can see that I have decided to retire Stone Soup. I can’t imagine turning the strip, which is so personal to me, over to anyone else, and my syndicate is not planning on running reruns. The last Stone Soup strip will appear on July 26, when I will officially jump off the funny pages.
Disney has long been an outfit fueled by nostalgia…But Disney’s little secret is that such nostalgia cannot stand on its own–it needs to be continually fed and reinforced. New Star Wars offerings drive longing for the ’70s, a Beauty And The Beast remake powers nostalgia for the 1990s. Marvel movies draft off pleasant feelings of a childhood of comic books (and, 12 years into their run, of themselves). Disney is a constant interplat between past and present, a continuous bicycle chain between the pieces we once loved and the current releases we see to remind us of them.
And that chain has now been severed.
‘What Disney really needs to do, what they rely on, is creating new nostalgia; they can’t just let the old kind stand for itself,’ Spiegel said. ‘Because, at some point, the umpteenth time you watch Frozen is the last time you watch Frozen.’
The American launch company that flies its rockets out of New Zealand has lost its latest mission.
Rocket Lab said its Electron vehicle failed late in its ascent from Mahia Peninsula on North Island.
All satellite payloads are assumed to have been destroyed.
These included imaging spacecraft from Canon Electronics of Japan and Planet Labs Inc of California, as well as a technology demonstration platform from a UK start-up called In-Space Missions.
Rocket Lab CEO Peter Beck apologised to his customers.
“I am incredibly sorry that we failed to deliver our customers’ satellites today. Rest assured we will find the issue, correct it and be back on the pad soon,” he said on Twitter
Rocket Lab has made everyone in the space sector sit up since it debuted its Electron vehicle in 2017. It’s at the head of a wave of new outfits that want to operate compact rockets to service the emerging market for small satellites.
Saturday’s lift-off from New Zealand was the Electron’s 13th outing to date. All prior launches had been a complete success, bar the very first which failed to reach its intended orbit.
Julian Bass loves Spider-Man, a trait you can easily glean by scrolling through the videos he posts to his TikTok and Twitter accounts.
“I just think Spider-Man is so fun. It’s so inspiring to me,” Bass told NPR’s Weekend Edition. “Everything, every little aspect that you could possibly think of about Spider-Man is something that I’m aware of, that I know of.”
In one now-viral video, the 20-year-old theater major at Georgia State University morphs into his favorite heroes using his own special-effects — first a Jedi wielding a blue lightsaber, then Ben 10, before his final transition into Spider-Man. He asked his followers to retweet the video “enough times that Disney calls.” Twenty million views later, Disney wasn’t the only one he heard from.
At first, he said his video gained “some small traction with my immediate circle.”
“And then the verified profiles started commenting,” he said. “The first one for me was The Lonely Island. And then I started seeing Josh Gad, Matthew Cherry. I saw Mark Hamill liked it. I mean if Mark Hamill likes it, I’m a Jedi now.”
Bass said these aren’t just retweets — he’s also getting messages from “bigwigs” such as Marvel co-president Louis D’Esposito and people from HBO Max.
Several more overseas productions will join James Cameron’s Avatar sequels and Jane Campion’s The Power of the Dog Netflix film in New Zealand in the coming months.
New Zealand’s Ministry of Business, Innovation, and Employment has announced that Amazon’s The Lord of the Rings series, Netflix seriesCowboy Bebop andSweet Tooth, Peter Farrelly’s film Greatest Beer Run Ever starring Viggo Mortensen, and Power Rangers Beast Morphers series have been granted border exemptions.
A total of 206 foreign-based cast and crew from those productions, along with 35 family members, will be allowed to enter New Zealand in the next six months, according to MBIE manager immigration policy Sian Roguski, quoted by New Zealand’s Stuff. Additionally, 10 more Avatar crew – in addition to the 31 already in New Zealand – had been granted border exemptions. All new arrivals will be subject to self-quarantine….
(15) BLOWN UP, SIR! In “Independence Day Pitch Meeting” on ScreenRant, Ryan George explains that the film’s aliens are very considerate by blowing up monuments that can be put in the trailer.
[Thanks to Daniel Dern, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Errolwi, Chip Hitchcock, John King Tarpinian, John Hertz, Mike Kennedy, Michael Toman, Martin Morse Wooster, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]
The award-winning science fiction author Nnedi Okorafor always has a project—or three—on the go. From her home outside Chicago she creates stories driven by what she describes as Africanfuturism and Africanjujuism for children and adults -a legacy of her Nigerian roots. Her work now ranges across comics for Marvel, screenplays and yet another new novel due out in the summer.
But she wasn’t always destined to be a writer. She spent her youth training hard to be a top class athlete until she developed curvature of the spine, which put an end to her dreams. After corrective surgery she became temporarily paralysed and it was then, during her darkest time, that she began to create stories.
Now, as Chicago, like the rest of the US endures lockdown, Nnedi’s been adapting to her changed life and restricted movements. Mark Burman talks to her about her work and how her creative process has been affected during the Covid-19 pandemic.
During recordings made in April and early May he eavesdrops on some of her writing moments including her fruitful collaboration with the Kenyan director Wanuri Kahiu and their story of an A.I. traffic police robot—and hears about the therapeutic distraction of her trumpet-playing daughter and magnificent cat which now has his own Twitter account!
(2) Q&A AND SLF. The Speculative Literature Foundation has been posting interviews Mary Anne Mohanraj conducted with sff writers at various conventions on their YouTube channel this month.
(3) ULTRAMAN. Marvel’s The Rise Of Ultraman #1 hits stands this September, featuring a cover by Alex Ross. Ultraman has been a pop culture staple since the franchise debuted in the 1960s, and his stories have been depicted on both the page and the screen – and the 2007 Hugo base.
…Storytelling masters Kyle Higgins (Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, Winter Soldier) and Mat Groom (Self/Made), together with superstar artists Francesco Manna (Avengers, Fantastic Four) Michael Cho (Captain America) and Gurihiru (The Unstoppable Wasp) will take fans back into the days of darkness, where the terrifying Kaiju lurk….
“Across the globe, Ultraman is as iconic and well-recognized a character as Spider-Man or Iron Man, so when the opportunity arose for us to introduce his mythos to a new generation, as seen through the Marvel lens, we didn’t take that responsibility lightly,” said Marvel Executive Editor Tom Brevoort. “For fans of the classic 1966 series, there’ll be plenty of Easter eggs that you’ll recognize. But for those who’ve never experienced an Ultraman story before, this series will start at square one—launching an epic showdown fit for the modern age.”
“With release of Marvel’s The Rise of Ultraman series, Tsuburaya Productions and our partners at Marvel Comics are taking ULTRAMAN a massive step forward onto the global stage,” said Tsuburaya CEO Takayuki Tsukagoshi. “Marvel’s rendering of the ULTRAMAN story has been faithfully created with the highest level of respect, quality and creativity resulting in a storyline that expands the ULTRAMAN universe.”
(4) RESOUNDING. Marc Laidlaw, is busy on his YouTube channel, too. He’s been reading short stories and posting them for a few months, but just today he began posting chapters of his new novel, Underneath The Oversea. It’s the first novel involving his long-running character, Gorlen Vizenfirthe. Marc will be posting all 28 chapters as an audio serial, over the next month or so…however long it takes.
…“Rick Baker didn’t want to come on if he had to redo [original creator] Chris Walas’s gremlins because what’s in it for him? And so to induce him, we changed the story so that there was a genetics lab run by Christopher Lee,” Dante says of the plot, which finds our furry friend Gizmo (voiced by Howie Mandel) once again spawning dangerous offspring, this time in a Manhattan skyscraper. “They turned the gremlins into different kinds of gremlins. So all the designs and ideas that Rick had, we could come up with and we could make different kinds of gremlins out of them. And plus he changed the designs of Gizmo and the regular gremlins a little bit.”
This Key & Peele takeoff about the Gremlins sequel is funny:
(6) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]
Born June 16, 1896 — Murray Leinster. It is said that he wrote and published more than fifteen hundred short stories and articles, fourteen movie scripts, and hundreds of radio scripts and television plays. Among those was his 1945 Retro-Hugo winning “First Contact” novella which is one of the first (if not the first) instances of a universal translator in science fiction. So naturally his heirs sued Paramount Pictures over Star Trek: First Contact, claiming that it infringed their trademark in the term. However, the suit was dismissed. I’m guessing they filed just a bit late given the universal translator was used in Trek prior to that film. (Died 1975.) (CE)
Born June 16, 1920 – Ted Dikty. Active fan from 1938; with Bob Formanek, fanzine Fantasy Digest; headed Indiana Fantasy Ass’n, published IFA Review; also 1940 Who’s Who in Fandom, see a PDF scan of it here – no, really, do see it; even more interesting from our perspective. Worked on Chicon I and II (2nd and 10th Worldcons). Married Julian May (she chaired Chicon II), each developing pro careers. With Everett Bleiler, our first annual “best” series, Best SF Stories 1949 and five more, Year’s Best SF Novels 1952 and two more; also Imagination Unlimited. Then alone, Best SF Stories 1955 through 1958, several more e.g. Great SF Stories About Mars, Great SF Stories About the Moon, Worlds Within Worlds. With Robert Reginald, The Work of Julian May. Sampo Award (given 1970-1980 for services to fandom). Co-founded Shasta Publishers and Starmont House. First Fandom Hall of Fame. (Died 1991) [JH]
Born June 16, 1924 — Faith Domergue. Dr. Ruth Adams in the classic Fifties This Island Earth. She has a number of later genre roles, Professor Lesley Joyce in It Came from Beneath the Sea, Jill Rabowski in Timeslip (aka The Atomic Man) and Dr. Marsha Evans in Voyage to a Prehistoric Planet. She amazingly did no genre television acting. (Died 1999) (CE)
Born June 16, 1925 – Jean d’Ormesson. More fully Jean Bruno Wladimir François de Paule Le Fèvre d’Ormesson, a count of France; his father the Marquis of Ormesson was Ambassador to Brazil. Starting 1956, fifty books, novels, plays; in 1971 alternative history The Glory of the Empire – full of detail, all fictional – won the Grand Prix du roman (as novels are called in French; tr. English 1974, Amazon has a Kindle edition here) of the Academie Française; in 1973 its youngest member; in 2009 its longest-serving member and dean. Both staunch on the Right politically and a good friend of socialist Mitterrand; played M in film comedy Haute Cuisine about M’s chef. Grand Cross of the Legion of Honour. Officer, National Order of Merit. Ovid prize (Romania). Macron called him “the best of the French spirit … intelligence, elegance, and mischief”. (Died 2017) [JH]
Born June 16, 1938 — Joyce Carol Oates, 82. No Hugos but she has garnered a World Fantasy Award in Short Fiction for “Fossil-Figures”, and has won more Stokers than I thought possible, the latest one for her most excellent collection of horror and dark fantasy stories, The Doll-Master and Other Tales of Terror. She has written pure SF in the form of Hazards of Time Travel which is quite good. (CE)
Born June 16, 1940 — Carole Ford, 80. She played the granddaughter and original companion of the First Doctor. She reprised the role for The Five Doctors, the Dimensions in Time charity special, and of course for The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot. Her first genre role was as Bettina in The Day of the Triffids, and she had an earlier role as an uncredited teen in the hall of mirrors in Horrors of the Black Museum. (CE)
Born June 16, 1939 — David McDaniel. A prolific writer of Man from U.N.C.L.E. novels penning seven of them, with such names as The Vampire Affair and The Hallow Crown Affair. He also wrote a novel for The Prisoner series, The Prisoner: Number Two. As a fan, he was quite active in LASFS, serving as its Director and Scribe, writing for various APAs (he aspired to be in all of them) and is remembered as a “Patron Saint” for his financial support of the club. (Died 1977) (CE)
Born June 16, 1958 – Don Sakers. Half a dozen novels, two dozen shorter stories; the Reference Library in Analog since 2009; Carmen Miranda’s Ghost is Haunting Space Station Three and three more anthologies; SF Book of Days. [JH]
Born June 16, 1963 – Robert Beatty. Pioneer in cloud computing. Co-founded Beatty Robotics with two daughters. Narrative magazine 2005-2013. Champion sabre fencer; licensed wildlife rehabilitator; Website shows him and wife with wedding-puppies (they lure-coursed whippets). Four novels about Serafina secretly in the basement of the Biltmore estate in the Blue Ridge Mountains, the first two and Willa of the Wood being New York Times Best Sellers. Here is his cover for his Dream Dance artbook about Ed Emshwiller. [JH]
Born June 16, 1969 – Hélène Boudreau.Acadian author of children’s books, a dozen so far; four for us about real mermaids e.g. they don’t sell seashells. “I’m a compulsive walker and train for half marathons and also love dark chocolate, bacon, and Perrier water (in that order).” [JH]
Born June 16, 1972 — Andy Weir, 48. His debut novel, The Martian, was adapted into a film directed by Ridley Scott. He received the Astounding Award for Best New Writer. His next two novels are Artemis and Project Hail Mary, the latter which is forthcoming. Intriguingly, he’s written one piece of Sherlockian fan fiction, “James Moriarty, Consulting Criminal“ which is only available as an Audible audiobook. (CE)
Born June 16, 1981 – Salla Simukka. Critic, editor, reviewer, scriptwriter for Finnish Broadcasting Co. Translator of books into Finnish as well as writing Finnish versions; a dozen of her own so far, three for us (As Red as Blood, As White as Snow, As Black as Ebony put Snow White into Finnish – told Sumukka’s way: see the 27 Sep 13 Publishers Weekly). Topelius Prize, Finland Prize. I couldn’t attend the Helsinki (75th) Worldcon; did you? Did you meet her? [JH]
(7) COMICS SECTION.
Pickles warns us that Grandmas can have mutant super-powers too,
What Speed Bump shows is less a super power and more of a super convenience.
(8) UNDER THE DOME. Warner Bros. passed on the invitation to be part of the online San Diego Comic-Con. Instead, they’ll host their own DC FanDome, a free, global, 24-hour virtual convention taking place on August 22.
With San Diego Comic-Con set to be held online this year due to the global pandemic, Warner Bros. is making its own plans to show off its movies, TV shows and everything else. Needless to say, the studio won’t be sitting out the annual pop culture convention scene. Far from it.
“The global event will immerse fans into the DC Multiverse, with new announcements from WB Games, Film and TV, and comics, as well as an unprecedented opportunity to hear from the casts and creators behind your favorite feature films and TV series,” reads the release.
(9) SPOT ON THE MONEY. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Until now, if you wanted your very own Spot the Robot Dog you had to lease one. No longer. You now have the option to buy your very own Spot from maker Boston Dynamics, assuming you have about $75K to spare. You can even pick up a pair of them, but no more than that for now. WIRED has the story: “You Can Now Buy Spot the Robot Dog—If You’ve Got $74,500”.
Spot, Boston Dynamics’ famous robot dog, dutifully follows my every command. The machine traipses forward, then automatically scrambles over a raised bed of rocks. I make it side-step. I command it up a flight of stairs, which it tackles with ease. It meets its match when I steer it at a medicine ball, though; it takes a tumble, and for a moment lies paralyzed on its back. But with a click of a button, Spot twists and rights itself, and recommences its ramblings.
Such unfailing obedience, yet I’m nowhere near Spot, which is roaming about the company’s testing grounds in Boston. I’m piloting the robot through my web browser from the comfort of my apartment in San Francisco, 3,000 miles away. With almost zero latency, I either use the robot’s front camera feed to click on bits of terrain—think of it like scooting around in Google’s Street View—or flicking my keyboard’s WASD keys in the most expensive videogame imaginable….
One model maker could have reached the final frontier of construction with his latest work.
Geoff Collard, from Paulton in Somerset, has spent 500 hours recreating the bridge set from Star Trek: The Next Generation.
His model has won praise from Star Trek fans for its realism.
(11) TREK MAKE-OVER. William Shatner hasn’t lost his touch for cringe-inducing tweets – but the photo gallery is intriguing.
[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, rcade, Martin Morse Wooster, John King Tarpinian, JJ, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Chip Hitchcock, Darrah Chavey, Lise Andreasen, and John Hertz for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew.]